Ball One – Mahela’s genius lay not in his late innings boundary hitting, but in his early innings risk-free run-a-ball accumulation. That is Sachin’s speciality too, but if he goes, only Yuvraj seems equipped to play such an innings. One or other will need to play very well indeed to get India over the line.
Ball Two – Sachin pierces the field in powerplay cricket at will, so it’s hard to tell whether he is in touch or not. Really great players seldom look like they’re floundering, so it’s always a surprise when they are dismissed. Sri Lanka won’t win this match without taking his wicket, so they will need to find a way to induce an error – a task beyond so many sides over twenty years.
Ball Three – And the best wicket-taker in ODI cricket does it! Malinga is extraordinarily effective with new or old ball, keeping a full length and attacking the stumps. He can generate real pace and bounce too – if fully fit, he’s a match for the best. In this case, a match for The Best.
Ball Four – Half-way, and India need 27 more runs in the second half of their innings compared to the 124 they managed in the first half. Wickets really matter in an equation like that, since the required rate is manageable. Dismissing two of Dhoni, Kohli and Yuvraj in the next fifteen overs is not essential if the Lankans are to win, but it’s not far short of that. Recognising this need for wickets, Sanga turns in the 27th over to his ace card, Lasith Malinga.
Ball Five – Before ODIs (One Day Internationals) became the accepted term, 50 overs (and 55 and 60 overs) cricket matches would often be referred to as One Day Tests. With the white ball, coloured uniforms and fielding restrictions, there’s little to connect limited overs cricket to Test cricket these days… except the occasional match like this. Proper batting, with few reverse sweeps (if any) and wicket-taking and innings-building have been the keys to success in this match. So much more rewarding than a 350 runs per side runs fest.
Ball Six – With reference to Ball Four, the Lankans failed to get even one wicket, never mind two and the game looks up for Sanga’s men, batted out of the match by Gambhir’s orthodoxy and Dhoni’s muscular thumps. Stranger, crueller things have happened in the last ten overs of a cricket match – but only to South Africa.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999