Pallekele: It was a nail biter of a finish at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, as India romped home to a three-wicket victory, on Thursday night.
India's tour of Sri Lanka has been all about the visitors so far. The home side barely stood up to the challenge that Virat Kohli and co presented them during the three-match Test series (which India swept 3-0) and the first ODI. It all looked to be heading in a similar direction well into the second innings of the second ODI as well.
However, a stretch of play, that lasted only 6.2 overs, completely changed the complexion of the match.
Despite a valiant effort by Akila Dhananjaya, India managed to limp over the finish line, with the watchful Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the crease.
Jasprit Bumrah and the Indian bowling attack
The Indian bowlers started the game off in a manner that has been consistent with the rest of the Sri Lanka tour – with total domination. It was an all-round performance in the field for Virat Kohli and co, as they stifled the runs and picked off wickets at regular intervals.
Jasprit Bumrah was the star of the innings, as he ended with figures of 4-43. The Mumbai Indians pacer may have picked up the wickets, but it was an all-round performance by the bowlers that helped them stifle Sri Lanka to a low total. Tight bowling and fielding stemmed the flow of runs, while the sense of urgency to score amongst the Sri Lankans brought about more wickets for India. Bumrah, who is known as a death over specialist, just kept things simple, and waited for the Lankans to make mistakes.
Siriwardana, Kapugedera show some fighting spirit
With the top order falling one after the other, the hosts needed someone to anchor the innings and guide them through to the end of the 50 overs. Milinda Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera did exactly that, putting up a 91-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Siriwardana’s run-a-ball 58 and Kapugedera’s 40 off 61 balls ensured that the hosts at least played their quota of 50 overs, and put up a respectable total on board.
Rohit, Dhawan carry Indian batting lineup’s burden
The revised target (via D/L method) of 231 that was set for India was already a low one. However, it was made to look even lower, when the two Indian openers came to the party.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were in blistering form, and simply smashed the Lankan bowlers all around the park. Their opening partnership left India 122 runs short of their target, with 31.3 overs and nine wickets in hand.
The two have been consistent performers for India, scoring regularly in the ICC Champions Trophy, West Indies tour, and now the Sri Lanka tour. What followed, however, was something that nobody could have foreseen.
Dhananjaya leads the Sri Lankan renaissance
Sri Lanka have yet another mystery spinner! Or do they? Akila Dhananjaya was almost unplayable on the night, as he scalped six Indian wickets – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel – in quick succession.
The 23-year-old certainly showed that he has the variation to trouble batsmen, even those who are known to be good players of spin. His magical spell meant that India went from a commanding 109-0 to 131-7, a point where it looked as though the hosts would win their first match of the tour.
India’s batting order deeper than the Mariana Trench
Even while Dhananjaya was picking off one batsman after another, India always looked like they have the firepower to take them over the finish line. The presence of a calm and experienced finisher like Mahendra Singh Dhoni certainly helped their cause.
However, even with half the batting order dismissed, they have the likes of Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni, Axar Patel, Buvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal to get them through.
This depth in the batting lineup helped them to a great extent, as Bhuvi, guided by Dhoni, scored his maiden ODI half century, and steered the Men in Blue across the line....