Three wickets apiece for spinners Akila Dananjaya and Praveen Jayawickrama followed by half-centuries for Avishka Fernando (76) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (65) helped Sri Lanka to a consolation three-wicket win in third ODI, which was reduced to 47 overs a side due to rain. It was Sri Lanka’s first ODI victory at home against India in nine years.
Having taken an unassailable lead in the series after the first two games, India experimented handing over as many as five debut caps - Sanju Samson, K Gowtham, Nitish Rana, Chetan Sakariya and Rahul Chahar. The inexperience went against them as they posted a sub par 225 all out. Sri Lanka nearly messed up a comfortable chase towards the end but got over the line with eight overs to spare. Rahul Chahar was the pick of the bowlers for India, giving SL a late threat with 3 for 54.
India’s sloppy fielding cost them, as they put down five catches.
India needed early wickets in the second innings but that wasn’t happening as Sri Lanka’s openers added 35 runs in quick time. Shikhar Dhawan turned to spin early and K Gowtham struck when M Bhanuka swept him to square leg in the sixth over.
India would have to wait for quite a while for their second success though, as Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa added 109 for the second wicket. Both were positive and never allowed India’s inexperienced attack to settle down. India had some chances but didn’t take them; Shikhar Dhawan dropped Rajapaksa on 31 while Chetan Sakariya dropped him 11 runs later. Nitish Rana then dropped him on 61. But fortunately for bowler Sakariya, K Gowtham took a splendid catch at fine leg to dismiss him.
Sakariya followed up his maiden international wicket with another strike when a slower ball deceived Dhananjaya de Silva, who fell caught and bowled. India could have had another but Fernando survived a run out chance the very next over.
India’s poor day on the field continued as Manish Pandey put down Fernando on 61. Fernando added 43 for the fourth wicket with Charith Asalanka, before the latter was lbw to Hardik Pandya.
Soon, Rahul Chahar had his first wicket as captain Dasun Shanaka chipped a catch to Pandey to leave Sri Lanka six down. The very next ball, Chahar found Ramesh Mendis’ outside edge but Prithvi Shaw dropped him at second slip.
A couple of overs later, though, Chahar had Fernando caught at slip by Shaw in similar fashion, Sri Lanka 13 away with four wickets in hand. Chahar struck again with SL seven away, but it was too late.
Earlier, India’s young batsmen paid for their profligacy and inexperience as Sri Lanka’s spinners made best use of a rain break to dismiss the visitors for a lowly 225 in 43.1 overs.
The lack of experience and game awareness became their undoing on the day.
The rain-break at the end of the 23rd over helped the home team. The pitch suddenly had a bit of freshness and the ball would both grip and skid, making life easier for the spinners, who rocked the middle-order.
The latest trend of young batters not being able to cope up with slow bowlers was on show as the middle-order looked clueless against left-arm spinner Jayawickrama (3/59 in 10 overs) and off-spinner Dananjaya (3/44 in 10 overs), who, in his second spell, blew away the lower middle order with turn and bounce.
However, Prithvi Shaw (49 off 49 balls) dazzled with his breathtaking array of strokes, while Sanju Samson again made batting look easy in his run-a-ball 46.
If Shaw slog-swept Jayawickrama in front and behind square, Samson would play the inside out cover drive with effortless ease.
They added 74 runs in 13.2 overs and one can’t fault anyone who was dreaming of something big as the duo injected life in a dead rubber.
However, after skipper Dasun Shanaka got one to skid and trapped Shaw, Manish Pandey’s (11 off 19 balls) inclusion brought about a break in momentum.
Samson was in no mood to relent but an uppish inside-out check drive was plucked by Avishka Fernando at extra-cover, like a fruit from the tree.
Post the break, when India resumed at 147 for three, the spinners suddenly started getting more turn and the rain had spiced up the pitch.
Pandey, who, perhaps, will not get any more chance on the tour or even in near future, blew it away when Jayawickrama deceived him with a beautifully flighted delivery. It was a typical orthodox left-arm spinner’s dismissal as the ball spun enough to beat Pandey, who went for an expansive drive.
Hardik Pandya (17) smashed three boundaries but Jayawickrama, already pumped up with twin scalps, got another one that turned enough to square up the colourful Baroda man.
Kumar Dharmasena’s poor day just became worse as the third umpire overruled him for the umpteenth time during the match.
Suryakumar Yadav (40 off 37 balls) again batted like a dream and hit seven boundaries but just like in the last match, the ball that sharply turns in became his undoing. The propensity to keep the bat behind the pads didn’t work as Dananjaya’s off-break found him leg before.
Debutants Krishnappa Gowtham and IPL specialist Nitish Rana both failed to get going. Gowtham played a nothing shot to a full-toss from Dananjaya while Rana was beaten for turn.