World Cup glory for India
Gautam Gambhir compiled a nerveless 97 and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni led by example with 91 not out from 79 balls as India defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets to claim their second World Cup crown in Mumbai.
The 1983 champions appeared to have their work cut out under the Wankhede Stadium lights when they slipped to 31 for two in pursuit of 275, with Lasith Malinga removing Virender Sehwag for a second-ball duck and Sachin Tendulkar for 18.
However, the composed Gambhir, who was dropped by a diving Nuwan Kulasekara at long-off on 30, played the anchor role to perfection and shared stands of 83 with Virat Kohli and 109 with Dhoni to turn the game in India’s favour.
Thisara Perera provided Sri Lanka with late hope when he bowled Gambhir with 52 still required, but Dhoni, finding form for the first time in the tournament, saw his side home with 10 balls remaining in the company of player of the tournament Yuvraj Singh, who finished unbeaten on 21.
India’s victory overshadowed a sublime unbeaten 103 from Mahela Jayawardene, who became the first man to score a century in a World Cup final and end on the losing side.
Jayawardene’s elegant 88-ball innings contained 13 fours, yet the shot that brought up his hundred - a drive over wide mid-off - was the first in which he had looked to display anything close to brute force.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara provided useful support to Jayawardene with 48, but his efforts were superseded by opposite number Dhoni, who rose to the occasion after promoting himself to number five.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who had failed to pass 50 in the competition prior to this match, was at his belligerent best as he took the attack to Sri Lanka’s bowlers and finished the game in suitably fine fashion by drilling Kulasekara over long-on for six.
Although he was unable to make a significant contribution in the final, it was Tendulkar, for so long the mainstay of India’s formidable batting line-up, who took centre stage in the jubilant post-match celebrations.
The Little Master, who missed out on the opportunity to bring up his 100th international hundred, was carried around the pitch by his team-mates, and South African Gary Kirsten was also showered with praise after masterminding the sweetest of successes in his final game as coach.
While Kirsten enjoyed the perfect send-off, there was to be no fairytale ending for legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in the final game of his glittering international career.
Muralitharan at least managed to take the field following a series of injury problems, but the 38-year-old posed little threat as Sri Lanka slumped to a second successive final defeat.
There had been confusion at the toss as match referee Jeff Crowe failed to hear Sangakkara’s initial call. The process was duly repeated and Sri Lanka’s skipper opted to bat first.
Zaheer Khan, who conceded 15 runs in the first over of the 2003 final against Australia en route to figures of 0-67 from seven overs, began with three straight maidens before having Upul Tharanga superbly caught at slip by Sehwag, diving to his right at slip.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara steadily increased the run-rate thereafter, but the former departed for 33 in the 17th over when he was bowled off his glove as he looked to sweep Harbhajan Singh.
That wicket brought Jayawardene to the crease alongside Sangakkara and the vastly experienced duo were hardly troubled as they added 62 for the third wicket.
Yuvraj offered little threat upon his introduction to the attack, yet the slow left-armer was gifted a wicket when Sangakkara, cutting, edged behind.
With the recalled Sreesanth - playing in place of the injured Ashish Nehra - proving expensive, Dhoni turned to the part-time offerings of Tendulkar and Kohli in an attempt to force another breakthrough.
Yet it was Yuvraj who picked up the next wicket as Thilan Samaraweera was struck on the thigh pad attempting to sweep and given lbw following an India review.
Chamara Kapugedera - one of four changes to Sri Lanka’s team - swiftly followed as he chipped a cleverly disguised Zaheer slower ball straight to Suresh Raina at short extra-cover, but Jayawardene received admirable support from Kulasekara and Perera in the remaining overs.
Kulasekara added 32 from 30 balls before being run out by Dhoni as Jayawardene looked to keep the strike, while Perera clubbed an unbeaten 22 from nine deliveries, including a six from the final ball of the innings, as 63 runs came from the batting powerplay.
Zaheer, who boasted figures of 2-16 after seven overs, conceded 44 runs from his final 18 deliveries and, when play resumed, India’s chase got off to the worst possible start as Sehwag, playing across the line, was trapped lbw by Malinga’s second ball.
A review failed to save the flamboyant opener and worse was to follow for India in the seventh over as Tendulkar drove loosely at an outswinger and provided Sangakkara with a routine catch.
Gambhir and Kohli responded impressively to a situation of intense pressure with a restorative third-wicket stand, although the former enjoyed a let-off as Kulasekara failed to hold on to a difficult chance off Suraj Randiv at long-off.
Dilshan pulled off a stunning one-handed return catch to dismiss Kohli for 35, but Sri Lanka were unable to build on the breakthrough as Dhoni, who excelled with a succession of powerful shots through the off side, joined Gambhir at the crease.
The duo were rarely troubled as India homed in on their target and it was a surprise to see Gambhir fall short of a century as he charged down the track to Perera, only to be bowled middle stump.
Gambhir’s exit proved little more than an inconvenience and Dhoni carved Perera over point for a maximum to banish any fears of another batting collapse.
Yuvraj came close to being run out following a direct hit from Kapugedera at short third man and also survived an lbw review from Randiv, but it was not long before Dhoni wrapped up the match in style.