Dhoni and Malinga deliver dramatic tie
A thrilling showdown between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Lasith Malinga ended with honours even as India and Sri Lanka played out a tie in the fifth match of the Commonwealth Bank Series at Adelaide.
Dhoni, who had led India to victory over Australia in their previous game with a nerveless unbeaten 44, was again charged with carrying India home as they attempted to overhaul Sri Lanka’s 236 for nine, which featured 81 from Dinesh Chandimal.
Gautam Gambhir had put India in the driving seat with a classy 91, but - after he was run out following a mix-up with Dhoni - Sri Lanka came roaring back to leave 24 required from the final two overs.
Dhoni and Irfan Pathan each found the boundary in the penultimate set of six, the latter with a huge six over square-leg off a no-ball, as Angelo Mathews conceded 15.
Malinga, renowned as one of the finest death bowlers in the game, then missed a glorious opportunity to run out India’s captain off his own bowling when he fumbled at the non-striker’s end, before - with two balls remaining - Vinay Kumar fell victim to Mathews’ direct hit from mid-off.
Four were needed from the last ball, which saw India collect three after Dhoni had sliced a wide delivery from Malinga to deep cover, where a diving Sachithra Senanayake parried the ball away from the boundary.
Dhoni had taken catches to account for both Sri Lanka openers after losing the toss. Upul Tharanga was guilty of poor footwork as he nicked the second ball of the match, from Vinay Kumar, and Tillakaratne Dilshan departed for 16 - to a bottom edge off Irfan.
When Kumar Sangakkara, on 31, spooned a leading edge off Ravichandran Ashwin to point, Sri Lanka were in need of a partnership.
Chandimal and Mahela Jayawardene rose to the challenge, sharing 94 for the fourth wicket before falling in consecutive overs.
Vinay trapped Jayawardene lbw for 43 with one that kept a little low, and Chandimal - who had prospered through the leg side with a series of flamboyant pulls - was run out after Mathews had looked to steal a quick single to short cover off Ashwin.
Just 58 runs were added in the 12.3 overs following Chandimal’s exit, although Senanayake did his best to give Sri Lanka some late impetus with an unbeaten 14-ball 22 containing three fours.
India then looked to be coasting to victory as Gambhir anchored their chase with a beautifully-paced innings.
Despite losing Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who each made 15, in addition to Suresh Raina for eight, Gambhir remained calm, striking six fours during his 106-ball stay at the crease.
The left-hander had put on 60 with Dhoni by the time the latter called for a single to mid-on, only to then send his partner back. Nuwan Kulasekara’s direct hit left India five down, with 59 needed from 57 balls.
Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin each departed cheaply as the run-rate rose, and Irfan was run out with eight deliveries remaining as a grandstand finish approached.