Sri Lanka just wrote the coaching manual on how to chase down a target on a tricky pitch. SL needed to get 144 runs (of the 164 they needed to win the match outright) to boot India out of the T20 World cup. The SL bowlers fought, clawed and yorked their way back into the game after India had scored a swift 90 odd runs in the first 10 overs of their inning and restricted them to just 163 off 20 overs, when a score in the neighborhood of 185+ loomed quite large.
After the initial reverses in the first two overs, the SL batsmen went about rebuilding the innings up. While the captain Sangakkara was digging in for the long haul, Dilshan found the perfect opportunity to get out of his rut to quickly score 30-odd runs which ensured the run rate did not fall too far behind. The scene of the one down batsman causing damage to India after the two dangerous openers have been gotten rid of, rather quickly and cheaply, gave me the feeling of Deja Vu! Then came, the most crucial partnership of the match, which eventually gave a firm shove to India’s aspirations of sneaking in to the semis through the back door.
Sanga and Angelo Mathews were initially content to knock the ball around. When these two got together, the score was reading 48/3 and another 96 required to get in to the semis off 12.2 overs. A required run rate 0f 8 per over. Nothing unheard of in T20 cricket but the pitch had seemed a little dodgy. Overs 9-12 fetched 30 runs and included two hits over the boundary, one each by Sanga and Angelo. By this time, both the batsmen looked in and if one of them stays till the end, its bye, bye India time.
Sanga showed why he is considered to have one of the keenest minds amongst his contemporaries. He did not let the pressure of the game get to his team. It seemed all the while that SL was more than happy to get to 144 (to qualify on NRR) and not 164 (outright win and qualification to semis). This was so contrary to the approach taken by South Africa in 2007, against (who else?) India. After Dilshan got out, he took it up on himself to keep the scoreboard ticking along and provided the impetus the inning needed, at the right time.
Over number 14, sent down by YK Pathan would go a long way in the proverbial door shutting on India’s face. Sanga plundered 16 runs off it with two 6’s and two 2’s. At the end of that over, SL needed only 44 from six over at a very pedestrian 7 RPO with 7 wickets in hand. Soon after Sanga departed for well made 46 (giving the debutant Vinay his 2nd wicket in international cricket) and Kapugadera walked in to join Angelo.
Its as if the SL team went over a blue print before they stepped on to the field for the chase. Step 1: Walk in; Step 2: Knock around; Step 3: Get your eye in while the other batsman steps on gas; Step 4: If the other batsman gets out while upping the rate, ask the incoming batsman to refer to Step 1.
They all followed it to a T. As Sanga got out, Kapugedara came in and was getting his eye in and Angelo was hitting boundaries at the other end. By the end of 18th over, it was clear that SL was gonna be through to semis and the only interest left in the game was, how they were gonna do it. By now, Kapu had gotten the feel of bat and ball and launched two huge sixes off the last 2 balls of the 19th over, bringing the equation to 13 runs off the 20th over for an outright victory. In the process, India were put out of their misery.
The 20th over was book-ended by two 6’s – one from Angelo and the other, off the last ball of the inning by Kapu. Cue jubilant SL players rushing on to the field and forlorn Indian players trudging off, and there you have it – A little “How to” DIY step-by-step procedure from SL in chasing a reasonably stiff target in a pressure game.
(P.S. If you are a sad India fan, perhaps this will help you a bit)