India fought back from a messy situation to carve out a 46-run victory against Sri Lanka in the Coca-Cola Cup today and remain on course for a berth in the final on Sunday.
Having been put in to bat by Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya in a must-win game, India were tottering at 38 for four but wriggled out to a healthy 227 for eight thanks to a career-best unbeaten 98 by Yuvraj Singh.
The bowlers then did their job, skittling out Sri Lanka for 181 in 45.5 overs to give the team their second victory in the tournament.
India, who had just two points from four matches before this match, have completed the first part of their job with this win. They now need to beat New Zealand, who have four points from five matches, tomorrow to ensure their place in the final.
Sri Lanka are already in the final with eight points from four wins.
It was a gutsy performance by Yuvraj Singh, whose previous claim to fame was the match-winning innings of 84 on his debut against Australia in the ICC Knock-Out tournament in Nairobi last year, as he engineered a remarkable turnaround in the company of Rahul Dravid after the top-order collapse.
An entirely different Yuvraj was at work today with the Punjab youngster leaving aside his natural flamboyance for a more composed and responsible knock that anchored India to a safe total from a position where a total near 200 looked highly improbable.
Yuvraj was unfortunate not to have reached his first one-day century but he can draw satisfaction from the fact that his effort was largely responsible for India's win today. That effort was duly acknowledged when he was adjudged the man-of-the-match for his heroic 110-ball knock that included six fours and a six.
India also owed its total to patient 47 by Dravid who prospered once again in his sheet anchor role. A quickfire 30 by Reetinder Singh Sodhi towards the end ensured India did not waste the advantages gained by Dravid and Yuvraj.
A total of 227 on a track that gave ample support to the bowlers was always going to be difficult for Sri Lanka. The hosts too lost early wickets but, unlike India, they could not get any partnership going which ultimately did them in.
The Sri Lankan batsmen capitulated without a fight after the pace duo of Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan had put them in a situation similar to what India had been in the morning. Sri Lanka were unable to recover after being reduced to 24 for three in the eighth over and never really looked in the running.
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