Kohli, Gambhir guide India into final

DHAKA: Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir cracked half-centuries to help India enter the triangular one-day series final with an emphatic eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka here today.

Kohli made a brisk 71 not out and Gambhir scored 71 as India surpassed Sri Lanka’s 213 with more than 17 overs to spare in the day-night match. India will clash with Sri Lanka in the final on January 13. Sri Lanka, who had made it to the final before this match, finished their league engagements with three victories from four matches. India have so far posted two wins and Bangladesh none after three matches. India’s victory was set up by paceman Zaheer Khan (3-38) and leg-spinner Amit Mishra (3-40), who restricted Sri Lanka to a modest total despite fighting half-centuries from skipper Kumar Sangakkara (68) and Suraj Randiv (56).

Dinesh Karthik and Gambhir put India on course for victory with an 89-run stand for the opening wicket. Kartik smashed an attractive 40-ball 48 with nine fours before being caught behind off paceman Thilan Thushara. Gambhir was dropped on 41 by Tillakaratne Dilshan at point and then on 43 by Upul Tharanga in the deep — both off the bowling of Thushara — before being caught at mid-on off Thissara Perera. He added 72 for the second wicket with Kohli, who hit nine fours in his 68-ball knock.

Sri Lanka’s hopes of setting a stiff target were earlier shattered when they lost six wickets for 84 runs in the opening 19 overs after electing to bat. Sangakkara steadied the innings with a 59-run stand for the seventh wicket with Randiv before falling in the 30th over, caught by Suresh Raina at mid-wicket while attempting to pull part-time spinner Yuvraj Singh. He hit nine fours in his 54th half-century.

Randiv continued to defy the Indian attack, hitting five boundaries in his maiden half-century before being bowled by Mishra. He also added 59 for the eighth wicket with Thushara (28). Sri Lanka suffered an early setback when Tharanga was caught at first slip by Karthik off seamer Sudeep Tyagi in the opening over. Tharanga, who made a century in the last match, failed to open his account this time. Dilshan, who missed the last two games because of an injury, looked in punishing mood as he cracked five fours in Tyagi’s successive overs.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni replaced Tyagi with Zaheer, who struck in his opening over when he had Dilshan caught by Gambhir. Dilshan hit eight fours in his 17-ball 33. Sri Lanka were let down by middle-order batsmen, with Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby and Perera falling in the space of 24 runs.