Just when the wheels appeared to be falling off this Indian tour, they responded in style, brushing aside a severe injury crisis and the controversial suspension of their captain, to register an emphatic seven-wicket victory against top of the table Sri Lanka at the Premadasa International Stadium in Colombo on Saturday.
Yesterday's news that Vangipurappu Laxman (knee), Zaheer Khan (shin), and Ashish Nehra (groin) had joined Sachin Tendulkar on the injured list and would be returning to India shortly had looked to have condemned India to an early exit in this Coca-Cola Cup.
Cammie Smith's shock decision to hand out a one-match suspension to Sourav Ganguly for "showing dissent" made their predicament even worse, but it did at least force Laxman to play in this game. He made up for his previous disappointments in Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 87 from 127 balls that guided India to the 184 target set by Sri Lanka earlier in the day. He was well supported by acting captain Rahul Dravid, who scored a calm 43, and Virender Shewag, who chipped in with a compact 27 as opener.
The win keeps India's hopes of qualifying for the final alive, but they still face a difficult task. They must win their remaining two games and have to hope that Sri Lanka defeat New Zealand at the Sinhalese Sports Club on Tuesday.
India's victory may have been comprehensive - they won with 26 balls to spare - but they had started poorly in the morning after Sanath Jayasuriya had won the toss and elected to bat first on a virgin pitch.
Jayasuriya was joined by his erstwhile partner Romesh Kaluwithrana, after Avishka Gunawardene made way for Kumar Sangakkara, and the pair put on 103 for the first wicket. They were trotting along at four runs per over and with wickets in the bank, they looked likely to post an imposing score.
It wasn't to be, however, as the Indian spinners - led by Harbhajan Singh who was well supported by Shewag, Yuvraj Singh, and Hemang Badani - chipped their way though the middle order, as Sri Lanka attempted to increase the tempo in the latter overs.
Jayasuriya (57) was the first to go as he swept Harbhajan Singh straight into the hands of Amay Khurasia on the square leg boundary. Marvan Atapattu (34) and Kaluwitharana (46) added a further 25 runs before the innings started to free fall.
From the relative comfort of 128 for one, they lost nine wickets for 55 runs to finish with just 183, which was never likely to be enough, even on pitches that had inhibited strokeplay thus far, and against India, who had already scored less than 150 on two previous occasions in this tournament.
However, Chaminda Vaas ripped through the porous defense of Amay Khurasiya with his second delivery to breathe some life into the vocal local supporters. Laxman responded in style. Batting with classical upright elegance and great timing, he forced Sri Lanka on to the back foot.
Suresh Perera was whipped out of the attack after just two overs and Jayasuriya settled for a defensive field, even when Muttiah Muralitharan - Sri Lanka's only realistic chance of victory - had to be introduced within the first 15 overs.
By the time Shewag drove Kumar Dharmasena straight to Kumar Sangakkara at mid on, India were firmly in control. Dravid joined Laxman and the senior pair batted with the responsibility demanded by the absence of both Ganguly and Tendulkar. They added 81 before Dravid nicked a catch behind to give Vaas his 200th wicket in One-Day Internationals.
Badani did not waste the opportunity for middle practice and accompanied Laxman to the end.
India will play their next game against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Ganguly will return to the side, but Zaheer Khan will not - he will definitely return to India tomorrow. Laxman is also likely to return home, but after his match winning performance today, the management have indicated that they will make a final decision tomorrow.