Kumar Sangakkara has hit a memorable half-century to help Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory over India in the World Twenty20 final in Dhaka.
The veteran left-hander knocked a 35-ball 52 not out in his last Twenty20 match to guide the Sri Lankan chase of a modest 131-run target in 17.5 overs at a packed Shere Bangla stadium on Sunday.
Thisara Perera hit Ravichandran Ashwin for a winning boundary to seal the win, finishing with 21 not out.
But it was Sangakkara who anchored the chase with six boundaries and a six in his unbeaten knock.
The victory gave Sri Lanka their first world title in 18 years since winning the World Cup (50 overs) crown in 1996 and gave the World Twenty20 a fifth champion in as many editions.
The victory also broke Sri Lanka’s jinx of losing the final of major world level events as they had lost two World Cup (50 overs) finals (2007 and 2011) besides being runners-up in as many World Twenty20 events in 2009 and 2012.
“It’s been a long time coming, (we’ve) waited five finals,” said Sangakkara, who was captain in the 2009 World Twenty20 and 2011 World Cup, but will now quit Twenty20 along with Mahela Jayawardene.
“I am pretty happy that I was able to do something for the team. It means a lot to all of us. We are very humbled by this.”
India won the inaugural edition in 2007 followed by Pakistan (2009), England (2010) and the West Indies (2012).
In contrast India were denied a chance to become the first team ever to hold three major cricketing titles at one time, after clinching the 2011 World Cup title and the Champions Trophy last year.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was full of praise for Sri Lanka.
“It was a perfect game for them,” he said.
“In the middle overs our batsmen tried our best, but we couldn’t convert the good start.
“We were short of a few runs but Virat has been brilliant,” said Dhoni of Kohli, declared player of the tournament.
Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals as Indian spinners applied pressure, but Sangakkara held one end intact.
Openers Kusal Perera went for five and Tillakaratne Dilshan for 18 before Sangakkara added 34 for the third wicket with Jayawardne (24) and another 54 for the unfinished fifth wicket with Thisara.
India were reduced to 4-130 by some tight Sri Lankan bowling despite a brilliant half-century by Kohli, whose 58-ball 77 was his eighth Twenty20 half-century (and fourth of this tournament) after India were sent into bat in a match reduced by 40 minutes due to rain.
With the win Sri Lanka also capped a long two-and-a-half month tour of Bangladesh during which they won all matches in a bilateral series against the home team and five-nation Asia Cup.