Dhoni's Men End 28-Year Wait, Win World Cup

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Chasing a target of 275, India were pegged on the back foot as early as the second ball of their innings when Lasith Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag plumb in front, and though the Indian opener asked for a referral, it was upheld. Malinga then struck again in the seventh over when he had Mumbai’s icon Sachin Tendulkar caught behind in the seventh over. But, the title was sealed when Dhoni hit the first ball of the 49th over for a massive six to put the icing on the cake and send a billion people into raptures.

And, to make things even sweeter for India, Yuvraj Singh was named Man of the Series for his 15 wickets and 362 runs. This win has also completed the career CV of Tendulkar, who didn’t contribute to the final as much as he may have liked to, but his innings in the lead-up to the final, not least in the semi-finals against Pakistan, It was also the perfect send-off for coach Gary Kirsten, who has now ended his tenure with the Indian team.

Coming back to the loss of those two early wickets, Gambhir and Kohli got the run chase back on track with a 83-run partnership as the Delhi boys got India right back into the match taking minimal risks and milking the Sri Lankan bowling to the fullest. And, even after Kohli was caught off his own bowling by Dilshan, Dhoni and Gambhir took the chase forward.

Dhoni has not been in the best of forms with the bat in the World Cup, but he potentially played the knock of his career in the final as he remained unbeaten on a 79-ball 91 and shared in a 109-run partnership with Gambhir as they snuffed the fight out of the Sri Lankan attack and broke their spirit with each run they made. And, even though Gambhir was bowled going for a massive hit when on 97, India wasn’t denied to be a win and it was fitting that Dhoni and Yuvraj, who have shared in so many monumental partnerships were in the middle, when the mission was finally achieved.

Malinga (2-42) made the early dents, but wasn’t able to make any more inroads in his subsequent overs. But, however, the most telling blows was felt by the Sri Lankan spinners, Suraj Randiv and Muralitharan, who bowled 17 overs for 82 runs without taking a wicket; and that’s really where Sri Lanka lost the match and plot.

Earlier, Jayawardene scored his 14th one-day international century as his unbeaten 103 helped Sri Lanka set India a target of 275 to win the final of the 2011 World Cup at Mumbai’s packed Wankhede Stadium.

Jayawardene was the anchor in Sri Lanka’s innings as he scored at more than a ball without taking too many risks and he also strung together important partnerships with his skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera to negate the good work done early in their innings by Indian pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who bowled three maiden overs on the trot at the start of the match.

Sreesanth, who shared the new ball with Zaheer, bowled reasonably well in his first two overs, but Tillakaratne Dilshan it him for a couple of boundaries over midwicket and to the midwicket boundary to break the shackles the left-arm pacer had sprung on the Sri Lankan opening batsmen. In between, Zaheer had Upul Tharanga caught by Virender Sehwag at first slip. Tharanga was all at sea against Zaheer and was beaten on more than one occasion; in fact the Sri Lankan opening batsman was unable to score a single run off the 18 deliveries he faced of Zaheer before he was put out of his misery. Zaheer’s first spell figures read 5-3-6-1 and he was the main reason Sri Lanka scored only 31 for 1 in their mandatory power play, their lowest score in this spell of play in the entire tournament. Zaheer’s bowling apart, exceptional fielding by Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina at point and cover point respectively further shackled the Sri Lankan top-order.

Earlier, Sangakkara won the toss and elected to bat. However, there was some controversy as the toss took place twice as no one including match referee Jeff Crowe had heard Sangakkara’s call first time round. India made only one change with S Sreesanth coming in for the injured Ashish Nehra; but Sri Lanka made four changes as Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Suraj Randiv and Nuwan Kulasekara replaced Chamara Silva, the injured Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath.

Dilshan was kept uncharacteristically quiet thanks to Zaheer and with Munaf Patel also keeping things tight at the other end it was tough going for the Sri Lankan opening batsman and Sangakkara. Dilshan did all the hard work and just when he looked as though he would play yet another big innings in the 2011 World Cup, he was unfortunate to get a glove as the ball lobbed back and ht the stumps as he was out for a 49-ball 33. Dilshan though ended the World Cup on exactly 500 runs, and became only the fifth batsman to score so many runs in the mega-event after Sachin Tendulkar (twice), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Jayawardene. Sangakkara and Jayawardene then looked untroubled during their 62-run partnership for the third wicket in just over 11 overs before ‘golden arm’ Yuvraj Singh had the Sri Lankan captain caught behind by Dhoni for a well-made 48 in 67 balls.

Jayawardene, who continued to look as though he was batting on another pitch, was in full control even as Samaraweera led a charmed life in his 34-ball 21 before he was trapped in front by Yuvraj, who finished the 2011 World Cup with 15 wickets. And, though, Zaheer dismissed Kapugedera with a slower ball soon after, Jayawardene continued on his merry ways and was well supported by Kulasekara and the pair added 66 runs for the sixth wicket in quick time.

Jayawardene got to his half-century off 49 balls and then accelerated thereafter bringing up his ton off 84 deliveries. Sri Lanka also took maximum advantage of the batting power play scoring 63 runs for the loss of only Kulasekara’s wicket with Jayawardene getting to his century in the space of three deliveries in the 48th over bowled by Zaheer including back-to-back boundaries. Perera then finished the Sri Lankan innings off in style scoring 16 runs including two boundaries and a six as he finished unbeaten on 22 off only 9 balls.

Zaheer destroyed all his good work in the batting power play as he leaked runs and eventually ended with figures of 10-3-60-2, while Yuvraj (2-49) and Harbhajan (1-50) were amongst the other wicket-takers. Sreesanth (8-0-52-0) disappointed yet again, while Munaf did well to finish well with 0-41 off nine overs.

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