The ODI series between Sri Lanka and India now moves to the 3rd game and Pallekele will once again host an encounter between the 2 sides. If you felt Sri Lanka were down and out after the Test defeat and the hammering in the first ODI, you were right until a spinner Akila Dananjaya wreaked havoc in the Indian batting line-up.
Chasing a paltry 231 to win, India were cruising to yet another comfortable chase. But Dananjaya bagged as many as 6 wickets in a single spell and left India tottering at 131/7 where, at one stage, they were sitting pretty at 109 without loss. It seemed as if Sri Lanka would finally get the better of the visitors but as it turned out, they were put in the loser’s corner once more.
The 2 calm-heads MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar put together a partnership of 100 runs for the 8th wicket and absorbed all the pressure. From a position of trouble, the duo took the side to safety and ensured no further losses. Bhuvneshwar scored his maiden ODI fifty and Dhoni made a gritty 45 to see the side past the line by 3 wickets.
What does it do to the series? Would the hosts take the positives and try harder? Or would they be disheartened by the loss and put themselves deeper into trouble? Things certainly went from bad to worse as a 2 match suspension was handed to the skipper Upul Tharanga after Sri Lanka were found guilty of slow over rate.
After scoring a half-century in the first ODI, Niroshan Dickwella once again looked impressive in the next game. He went after the pacers and scored a quickfire 31 off 24 balls. But Sri Lanka would want him to carry on and get a big one this time around. Kusal Mendis too has been getting starts but not carrying on to convert those into something substantial.
Danushka Gunathilaka might miss out due to a shoulder injury and Lahiru Thirimanne, the new entry into the squad might open the innings. Dinesh Chandimal, who has been included in the squad for the remaining 3 ODIs might also feature straight away in the XI. He along with Angelo Mathews will have to carry the responsibility of the innings.
Milinda Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera played decent knocks and their partnership of 91 took Sri Lanka to a fighting total. Kapugedera will also play the role of a stand-in captain in the absence of Tharanga. It will be interesting to see how he goes on about his new job.
The pacers Lasith Malinga, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmanta Chameera and Angelo Mathews were ineffective once again. The previous game was all about the bowling of Akila Dananjaya. The 24-year-old troubled one and all with his variations and kept knocking over one Indian batsman after the other.
Rohit Sharma found form in the last game with a brilliant knock of 54. Shikhar Dhawan carried on his great form on the tour but missed out on a half-century by a solitary run. An experiment was carried out by the team as KL Rahul batted at N0.3 followed by Kedar Jadhav at No.4.
Virat Kohli pushed himself back at No.5 but the trial didn’t work as all of them fell to the mystery of Dananjaya. Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel too didn’t last long but thanks to the gritty partnership between Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar, India somehow edged past the line.
The bowlers were once again impressive. Jasprit Bumrah claimed 4 wickets and halted Sri Lanka at the fag end of the innings. The spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel returned decent figures and bagged 2 and 1 wickets respectively. Hardik Pandya too chipped in with a crucial wicket of Upul Tharanga.
Players to watch out for:
The spinner was magnificent in the last game and with a six wicket haul, he reminded of the time Ajantha Mendis dismantled the Indian batting line-up with a 6-for in the final of the Asia Cup 2008. It will be interesting to see how the Indians work out his variations that include leg-spin, off-spin and googlies.
The right-hander failed in the last game but there are chances that he will get another go at the N0.3 slot. Kohli had made it clear that the team is up for experimenting. With Dhawan and Rohit firmly occupying the openers’ slots, Rahul’s best chance is in the middle-order. But he will have to make the most of every opportunity as a talented Manish Pandey is also itching to pounce on a spot in the middle-order.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera(c), Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Milinda Siriwardana
India: Virat Kohli(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah