After being battered in the Test series, the Lankans produced a stunning display of ruthlessness to first restrict the hosts to 112 and then chase the runs down in 20.4 overs to register a 7-wicket victory in the opening game of the three-match series. For the Lankans who had been the subject of much political discourse ahead of this series, the win was more than just a statement from them as they will now wear a confident look going into the second game.
When Thisara Perera won the toss, he had no doubt in putting India into bat. Led by Rohit Sharma and without the talismanic Virat Kohli in the ranks, the Men in Blue were not expected to capitulate. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit, Dinesh Karthik at the top of the order are experienced heads, but that was not enough to bail them out. Suranga Lakmal was the wrecker-in-chief for the Lankans as along with Angelo Mathews for company, the duo broke the very backbone of the Indian batting.
A sharp swinging delivery from Mathews began the collapse as Dhawan (0) was caught leg before without troubling the scorers. And before Rohit Sharma (2) could get his eyes in, Lakmal’s persistence in the corridor of uncertainty paid off. The stand-in captain’s decision making was at fault as he poked his bat at a short ball which resulted in a long walk back to the pavilion after the Lankans reviewed the initial decision.
Next Lakmal locked his target on Dinesh Karthik (0) who was caught off guard with the ball nipping in sharply. India were tottering at 8/3 and not even nine overs had been completed. Manish Pandey joined Shreyas Iyer and both needed to dig deep and steer the ship out of troubled waters. But Lakmal who was steaming in with intent got him to play across the line and Pandey (2) nicked it to Mathews at first slip for a simple catch.
India’s situation was starting to go from bad to worse, as the score stood at 16/4. Debutant Shreyas Iyer was definitely not expecting an initiation of this kind into ODI cricket, and as one would expect he put a price on his wicket. The newest kid on the block battled it out for close to 30 balls, but wrong shot selection meant Nuwan Pradeep joined in the party – Iyer batting on 9 at the time, chopped it on to his own stumps as India had half the side back in the hut for 16.
Former captain MS Dhoni watched on bewildered from the other end. In walked the swashbuckling all-rounder Hardik Pandya, but even he did could not hang in. Pandya was dismissed for a run-a-ball 10, and in the next over the newly married Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0) followed suit to give Lakmal his fourth wicket of the day.
India were reeling at 29/7 and staring at possibly registering the lowest total by a team in ODI cricket — 35 by Zimbabwe against Sri Lanka. Dhoni had Kuldeep Yadav for company, and the spinner who has good memories on this ground, dug in to finally steady the ship. Together the two put on a 41 for the 8th wicket, before Kuldeep got a taste of his own medicine. Akila Dananjaya spun a web around him and Niroshan Dickwella was quick to stump him for 19.
Neither Jasprit Bumrah nor Yuzvendra Chahal opened their accounts as Dhoni decided to take care of upping the ante. A few calculated moves and big shots later Dhoni completed his 67th half century but could not power on beyond 65 as India were skittled out for 112.
It was now up to India’s bowlers to repeat what their Sri Lankan counterparts had managed to so well early in the day. Every bowler who rolled his arm over had at least a wicket to their name, with Lakmal being the pick of the lot as he accounted for 4 Indian batsmen.
A determined Jasprit Bumrah had Danushka Gunathilaka (1) caught behind early on and cheaply to raise some hopes of defending the target, after which he almost had Upul Tharanga on 11 but for a front foot no-ball.
Bumrah’s partner-in-crime Bhuvneshwar Kumar though quickly made amends for that from the other end as he swung it in sharply to disturb Lahiru Thirimanne’s timber for a duck. Sri Lanka were going in the same direction as India, but at 19/2 they were definitely better off.
After that early shock the experienced duo off Tharanga and Angelo Mathews took stock of the situation and played the ball and the conditions smartly to ensure there would be no more setbacks.
India’s slip catching continued to let them down, before Dhawan finally held one to give Hardik Pandya his first wicket of the match and stop Tharanga a run short of his half century (49). It was a moment of small joy for the Indians, as Mathews (25*) in the company of Dickwella (26*) polished of the rest of the target with more than 25 overs to spare.
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First Published: December 10, 2017, 5:24 PM IST