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Persistence that didn’t pay but cost


Posted: Feb 29, 2012 at 0138 hrs IST

: When Mahela Jayawardene brought Lasith Malinga back into the attack for his fifth over, the bowling powerplay was in place, and the slingy pacer’s figures read 4-0-43-1. In those first four overs, Malinga’s direction had been all over the place — overpitched to Sachin Tendulkar, too short to Virender Sehwag, line sliding into the leg-side far too often.

With this being a virtual 40-over chase, 11 overs remained. Jayawardene was clearly showing faith in his strike bowler, entrusting him the responsibility of bowling his remaining six overs on the trot, finishing with the 40th and ‘final’ over. Plenty of captains would have done the same thing, despite the erratic nature of Malinga’s first spell.

But not too many captains would have stuck with him as long as Jayawardene did. Malinga’s fifth over cost Sri Lanka 15 runs, with the ball travelling to the leg side boundary three times — once each off the bats of Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina and once off Kohli’s pads for four leg byes. With four fours coming off the next over, bowled by Nuwan Kulasekara, India’s equation came down to 73 from 54 balls.

At this stage, on a slowish wicket, it might have been prudent to change the pace and bring back Rangana Herath, who had conceded only 20 from four overs, with no boundaries. Instead, Jayawardene opted to throw the ball to Thisara Perera, and change Malinga’s end. Maybe the Lankan skipper feared that Raina would launch Herath’s left-arm spin over the top with impunity, without field restrictions to fear. If that was his thinking, it showed a lack of faith in a very clever bowler.

Feasting on the sameness of the attack, Kohli and Raina left themselves with only 42 to get off 36. Jayawardene persisted with Malinga. Kohli went boom — 2, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4. The last three fours went through the leg side, off attempted yorkers. The deliveries may have been slightly off target, but his skipper’s field was way off target. With a bowler who relies so much on the full, straight, blockhole delivery, having fine leg inside the circle wasn’t a particularly bright idea.

The match was over by now. Appropriately, the winning hits came off Malinga, Kohli finishing things off with two clinical drives through the covers.

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