It was not the winning six off his bat that Mahendra Singh Dhoni remembers most from the 2011 World Cup final.
A full house at the Wankhede Stadium dancing to the tune of a wonderful rendition of AR Rahman’s Vande Mataram is what spurred the former India captain much before the party had actually begun. During a recent talk show, Dhoni revealed that those scenes in the stands inspired him to bring out his best on that momentous occasion.
Twelve years later, the stadium replicated similar scenes as the Indian pace trio demolished Sri Lanka on Thursday.
As Mohammed Shami claimed his fifth wicket, Kasun Rajitha poking at an outgoing delivery into Shubman Gill’s hands at second slip, the Wankhede rose to the tune of Maa Tujhe Salaam.
Shami sank to his knees to thank the lord as he became the leading wicket-taker
for India in World Cups, going past Zaheer Khan’s tally of 44.
Dilshan Madushanka and Dushmantha Chameera had provided the early clues during the Indian innings and the Shamis and Mohammed Sirajs just made the most of the opportunity.
The wicket had bounce and carry much to the liking of the fast bowlers. It was ideal for the strokemakers too as the likes of Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer showed during India’s innings.
There was no way Sri Lanka would chase down 358 but the manner of their capitulation was beyond imagination. The 302-run victory, their seventh on the trot, confirmed India’s place in the semi-final.
Shreyas Iyer at the Wankhede on Thursday. PTI photo
The Lankans were flinching in the face of pace as Siraj and Shami ran through their batting. It was not just the pace that unsettled the batters, but the discipline and movement that forced them to commit mistakes.
The very name of Siraj sends shivers down the Lankan batting after his 6/21 had sent them crashing to 50 in 15.2 overs in the Asia Cup final. It was slightly better on Thursday since they managed to add five more runs to that total.
Jasprit Bumrah fired the first salvo with the opening delivery of the innings, trapping Pathum Nissanka leg before. Little did they know that another horror start awaited them.
Siraj claimed the next three wickets as Sri Lanka crashed to 4/3 in the fourth over.
There was no stopping Shami then. Getting the ball to jag off the seam, he used the bounce on the wicket to leave the batters scurrying for cover. His 5/18, his second five-wicket haul in this World Cup, was also his best in ODIs.
The manner in which Shami castled Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka’s most experienced batter, showed his talent and craft. It was pitched full length and swung into him as he
attempted an expansive drive. It was too late though since he had read the length wrongly.
Dushmantha Chameera was a victim of not being able to handle the short delivery while Dushan Hemantha was guilty of poking at a delivery outside the off stump.
Shami now has 14 wickets in three matches and it will be impossible for Rohit Sharma to keep him out of the playing XI. It was only on the eve of the match that Rohit revealed that none of the bowlers were willing to sit out to cash in on their momentum.
“We have found the rhythm and it’s because of that you are getting to see this (wicket-taking) storm,” Shami said.
“Our bowling unit is performing incredibly. Yes, we are enjoying ourselves a lot and working together as a unit.”
Considering the conditions, with a bit of nip in the air, will help the pacers, India’s bowling combination is settled for the remaining matches — three pacers and two spinners.