India captain M.S. Dhoni smashed 16 off the first four balls of the final over to clinch the Tri Nation series with a thrilling one wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Port of Spain on Thursday.
After bowling out Sri Lanka for 201, India were facing defeat at 167 for eight but, needing 15 to win off the final over, Dhoni smashed Shaminda Eranga for a six and a four and then won the game with another six with two balls to spare.
The victory continues India’s success in the one-day game following their triumph in last month’s Champions Trophy.
Hosts West Indies finished third in the series having failed to make the final, which resulted in a disappointing crowd.
Eranga will surely regret his decision to bowl full length deliveries around off stump to Dhoni, allowing the Indian the room to drive.
But for Dhoni, returning from a hamstring injury and looking uncomfortable running between the wickets, it was a superb effort, his unbeaten 45 proving decisive in a low scoring contest at the Queen’s Park Oval.
Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara struck a fine 71 in a 122 run partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne to give them a solid foundation but after he went, with the first ball of the 40th over and his team 174 for four, their innings fell apart with just 27 runs added for the final six wickets.
Slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja picked up four wickets as he ran through the Sri Lankan lower order, with India finishing off their opponents with seven balls remaining of their allotted 50 overs.
It was a similar story with India’s reply—Rohit Sharma was the anchor, making 58, before he was bowled by slow left-armer Rangana Herath.
Suresh Raina made 32 and when he departed in the 35th over India were well on their way at 145 for five.
But Herath picked up three quick wickets, all lbw dismissals, as India slumped before Dhoni took charge.
Last man Ishant Sharma held up his end, taking just two off the penultimate over bowled by Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews and ensuring Dhoni had the chance to finish with a flourish.
Sri Lanka had chosen to use their best finishing bowler Lasith Malinga in the 48th over, with Dhoni taking just two off it, clearly thinking ahead to the final over.
“I think I am blessed with a bit of good cricketing sense,” said Dhoni in the post-game ceremony.
“The opposition bowler was not the most experienced in that last over, unlike Malinga, so I thought I would take my chances. I went with a heavy bat and the weight was perfect for slogging,” he added.
Mathews blamed the batting collapse for his team’s defeat.
“It was a great game. The bowlers showed a lot of character to (try to) defend 200. We lost momentum in our innings and had we played till the end we could have pushed it to 230-240 and that would have been enough”.