Samaraweera, Perera Shine As Lanka Upstage India
Thilan Samaraweera's second ODI century and Thissara Perera's gem of a cameo tilted the balance as India slumped to a five-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka in their tri-series opener in Mirpur on Tuesday night.
Defending a 279-run total, India fancied their chances in their first outing of the new year but the 122-run stand between Samaraweera (105 not out off 106 balls) and Kumar Sangakkara (60), followed by Perera's breath-taking unbeaten 15-ball 36 turned the match on its head.
The spirited Lankans cruised to 283 for five in 48 overs and their second successive win in the tournament would be some solace for the islanders who had lost both the Test and ODI series in India before coming to this tournament.
Put into bat, India earlier rode on fit-again Yuvraj Singh's well-paced 74 to recover from a top-order wobble to post a competitive 279 for nine.
Virender Sehwag (47), MS Dhoni (37), Suresh Raina (35) and Ravindra Jadeja (39) chipped in with useful cameos but India missed the 300-mark, managing just 20 runs from the last five overs and that proved costly in the end.
Chasing 280 for a win, Sri Lanka got off to a brisk start and Sangakkara and Samaraweera raised 122 runs at a rapid clip to prop up the innings.
With Tillakaratne Dilshan nursing a groin injury, Lahiru Thirumanne (22) had the opener's role thrust on him in his debut match and the youngster calmed his nerves with three fours off S Sreesanth's first over.
Sreesanth returned to settle score in his next over when Gautam Gambhir pouched Thirumanne's top edge at square leg but not before adding brisk 48 runs with Upul Tharanga (30).
Tharanga also looked in good nick before he tamely drove Harbhajan Singh's fifth delivery back to the bowler for a simple caught-and-bowled dismissal.
What followed was a 20-over toil for the Indian bowlers, who struggled to grip the wet ball and break the Sangakkara-Smaarweera stand that put Sri Lanka's chase back on track.
The experienced duo added 122 runs in just over 20 overs before Sangakkara -- who became the fifth Lankans to score 8000 ODI runs -- fell to Harbhajan.
Harbhajan removed Thilan Kandamby too but Perera then came up with a gem of a cameo to take the match away from India.
Earlier, Yuvraj struck a well-paced to bail India out of the woods.
The left-hander played a crucial knock after coming in to bat when India were 62 for two and shared a 99-run stand for the fourth wicket with Dhoni to repair the innings.
Sehwag, who made a quickfire 31-ball 47 and Jadeja, who contributed a 34-ball 39, were the other main contributors.
At one point of time India looked like they would cross 300 but they added just 20 runs from the last five overs, losing four wickets in the process.
Raina, Harbhjan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Jadeja fell in a heap towards the close.
For Sri Lanka, Chanaka Welegedara was the most successful bower with figures of five for 66 while his pace colleagues Thissara Perera and Thilan Thushara chipped in with two wickets each.
Playing their first one-day international of the year in search of a consistent performance to become world number one in the 50-over format, the strong Indian batting line-up made a shaky start against an inexperienced Sri Lankan bowling with three top order batsmen back to the pavilion by ninth over.
Gautam Gambhir (8), who opened the innings along with Sehwag in absence of Sachin Tendulkar, was done in by a Welegedara yorker.
An unperturbed Sehwag hit three consecutive fours in the sixth over off Suranga Lakmal but was lucky to escape in the next over when Kumar Sangakkara caught him off a Welegedara delivery which was adjudged a no ball.
Welegedara responded by claiming Virat Kohli (9) in that eventful over and returned to see Sehwag's back. PTI