If you were thinking India would pull off yet another one-sided victory, you would be thinking you were right for the 65% percent of the match. But a youngster named Akila Dananjaya burst onto the scene and an unknown commodity bagged a 6-wicket haul to leave India in stutters. But once again, it was MS Dhoni, the finisher, who remained calm amidst the chaos and alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar, gave India its second victory of the series.
Earlier, Virat Kohli won his 5th toss in a row on the tour and just like the last ODI, invited Sri Lanka to bat first. Once again, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ineffective with the new ball. His new partner Jasprit Bumrah too didn’t extract much from the surface as Niroshan Dickwella went on the offense. With 3 fours and 2 sixes early in the innings, he got the score up and running.
Indian bowlers at work again
Just when he threatened to run away with the game, Bumrah dismissed him for 31 off 24 balls as the first wicket went down for 41 in the 8th over. Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis added 29 runs for the 2nd wicket before the former was stumped by MS Dhoni off Yuzvendra Chahal’s bowling. The skipper Upul Tharanga played a poor shot and threw his wicket to Hardik Pandya for just 9.
Soon after, Mendis’s misery at the crease was ended by Chahal as the batsman departed for 19 off 48 balls. Angelo Mathews couldn’t hang in there for long and was trapped in front by Axar Patel for 20. At 121/5 in the 29th over, the hosts were left reeling and were in danger being bowled out cheaply.
Sri Lanka came back
But just then, Milinda Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera took the matters in their hands and began to guts it out. The duo added 91 runs for the 6th wicket and put the side into a position from where they could get to a substantial score. Siriwardana got to his half-century but was removed soon by Bumrah for 58 when he looked to up the ante.
Kapugedera too fell to Bumrah for 40, courtesy a brilliant yorker. Bumrah’s brilliant spell included another wicket of Akila Dananjaya in the 49th over. He ended with figures of 43/4 and halted Sri Lanka to a paltry score of 236/8 which at one stage, seemed like going past 250.
There was a rain interruption after Sri Lanka’s innings ended and a considerable delay reduced the target for India to 231 from 47 over by DLS method. The Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma began on a positive note considering the rain threat to stay ahead of the DLS target if the rain allowed 20 overs of play.
As it turned out, there was no further rain interruption and the duo did a great job of keeping the run-rate up. They added 109 runs for the 1st wicket before Rohit was sent back Akila Dananjaya for 54 off 45 balls that included 5 fours and 3 sixes. Dhawan too fell soon for 49, missing out on a half-century as Mathews took a blinder at short fine-leg.
India experimented by sending KL Rahul at No.3 and Kedar Jadhav at No.4. But the move backfired as Jadhav was castled by Dananjaya in the 17th over courtesy a wrong un. Kohli, who walked in at No.5, was undone by another googly 2 balls later. The bowler bagged his 3rd wicket of the over by knocking over Rahul with the same delivery.
The 24-year-old wreaked havoc in India’s line-up and from 109 without loss, they were tottering at 119/5 within a space of 15 balls. Dananjaya then teased Hardik Pandya with a flighted delivery and got him out stumped in his next over. An over later, Axar Patel became his 6th victim when he got out LBW for 6. A brilliant spell by the spinner brought back the memories of Ajantha Mendis’s spell in the Asia Cup 2008 who also had picked up 6 wickets to defeat India.
Dhoni-Bhuvi, the two calmest
At 131/7 in the 22nd over, the hopes for India were diminishing too soon. But India’s best finisher ever MS Dhoni was still at the crease having Bhuvneshwar Kumar for support. The duo began to bat cautiously and brought caution to the wind. Dhoni batted with grit and guided his partner during testing times. Slowly but steadily, they started bringing India back into the game.
Dhoni played a risk-free knock which was the need of the hour as the required run-rate was well under control. Bhuvneshwar too played a solid hand and took the strike more than Dhoni. Just when the required run-rate crept up, he went after Siriwardana and brought back the control. From then on, the two batsmen kept turning the strike over and comfortably got close to the target.
In the process, Bhuvneshwar brought up his maiden fifty in ODI cricket in the 44th over. A responsible partnership of 100 runs for the 8th wicket took India past the line with 16 balls to spare and 3 wickets in hand. Bhuvneshwar finished unbeaten with 53 off 80 balls where Dhoni scored 45 not out off 68 balls.
India won the toss and opted to bowl first
Sri Lanka: 236/8 in 50 overs
Milinda Siriwardana 58, Chamara Kapugedera 40
Jasprit Bumrah 43/4
India: 231/7 in 44.2 overs
Rohit Sharma 54, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 53*
Akila Dananjaya 54/6
India won by 3 wickets (DLS Method)
Player of the match: Akila Dananjaya
WACA Ground, Perth
Drummoyne Oval, Drummoyne
Centennial Park Oval, Nuriootpa
Drummoyne Oval, Drummoyne
Ekana International Cricket Stadium, Lucknow
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