A supremely confident Indian team appeared to be peaking at the right time just before the final of the World Cup. Such was the din at the Wankhede Stadium that none at the toss heard skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s call correctly, and the coin had to be flipped again.
The Sri Lankan innings was built around a superb hundred by Mahela Jayawardene. Even as Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara forged a 43-run second-wicket stand in just over 10 overs, the innings got impetus when the classy Jayawardene walked in. He put on 62 with Sangakkara at a-run-per-ball, and another 57 with Thilan Samaraweera at about the same rate, bringing up his own fifty off 49 balls.
Sri Lanka took the powerplay only in the 46th over at 211 for five. Nine runs came off Zaheer Khan’s over and eleven off Munaf Patel with 2 fours. Nuwan Kulasekara slammed Zaheer over mid-wicket for a six, and Jayawardene hit two cracking boundaries to raise his century off 84 deliveries. But Kulasekara was run out.
In the final over Thisara Perera smashed Zaheer for 2 fours and then a six off the last ball. The final 5 overs yielded 63 runs. Jayawardene leapt in joy. Sri Lanka had equalled the highest losing total of 274 in a World Cup final. No team batting second had scored so many in a World Cup final, but every team with a centurion in the final had won the Cup. This was not for the fain-hearted!
‘Slinga’ Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag leg-before second-ball. The stunned silence turned into a mighty roar as Gautam Gambhir glided his first delivery to the boundary. After a couple on the off-side, Sachin Tendulkar drove Nuwan Kulasekara straight in trademark fashion and then cut him for boundaries, to bring the house down. He then lost strike for a while. Soon enough he nicked Malinga, and Sangakkara grabbed it, flinging himself to his right.
Tendulkar was not to score his 100th hundred in the World Cup final. The crowd gave him an extended standing ovation. But there was despondency too as India were 31 for two, with a mountain to climb. Gambhir and Virat Kohli regrouped, rotating the strike, coupled with the odd boundary. They then struck Kulasekara for a four each in the 12th over. India started to breathe easier, but this was an all-or-nothing game with lots of serious work to be done.
The pair batted with maturity, bereft of histrionics. The left-hander clocked his half-century in 56 balls. Kohli was beginning to open out when he drove hard at Dilshan who took a brilliant return catch. They had put on 83 in 15.3 overs, priceless in this situation.
MS Dhoni resolutely promoted himself, perhaps intending to retain the left-right pairing too. He began studiously, striking a boundary only off his 25th ball. Progress was steady; Dhoni hammered one through the covers to reach fifty off 52 deliveries. Gambhir by now was 90, and India 204 for three after 38 overs. Runs now came easily but Gambhir sent shock-waves, trying to smash one, only to be bowled for 97. He had played anchor in the high-voltage game, his 122-ball knock comprising 9 boundaries.
Yuvraj Singh joined in with 52 required off 52 balls. Dhoni rocketed one over point for a six. They raised the tempo in the 47th over with a boundary each. Dhoni hit Malinga for two more fours in the next over. With 5 runs to get in two overs, Dhoni nonchalantly lofted the ball above long-on into the stands. He returned triumphant with 91 off 79 balls studded with 8 fours and 2 sixes. Dhoni lifted the Cup; the joyous teammates hoisted Tendulkar.
Kohli remarked famously:
He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It was time we carried him.
Sri Lanka: 274 for 6 (50 overs), India: 277 for 4 (48.2 overs) (CWC 2011)