IND vs SL 2nd ODI:India squeak home after Dananjaya magic


August 24, 2017

Brief Scorecard: India 231 for 7 (Rohit 54, Bhuvneshwar 53*, Dhoni 45*, Dananjaya 6-54) beat Sri Lanka 236 for 8 (Siriwardana 58, Bumrah 4-43) by three wickets (DLS method)

Bhuvneshwar Kumar posted his maiden ODI half-century and lead India's chase – AP

August 24, 2017

Brief Scorecard: India 231 for 7 (Rohit 54, Bhuvneshwar 53*, Dhoni 45*, Dananjaya 6-54) beat Sri Lanka 236 for 8 (Siriwardana 58, Bumrah 4-43) by three wickets (DLS method)

Bhuvneshwar Kumar posted his maiden ODI half-century and lead India's chase – AP

India could not do anything wrong and Sri Lanka could not catch a break. The story remained unedited for a major part of the second One-Day International at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Thursday  (August 24). But a newly-married Akila Dananjaya attempted to revise the   script, an effort that deserves special space in the annals of Sri Lankan cricket.     

As Dananjaya’s luck would have it, Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose the very same day to drive out of a cave with his cape on to save India the blushes and carry them to a nerve-wracking three-wicket win on the DLS Method in pursuit of a revised 231 from 47 overs in the second One-Day International.      

In Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Batman found his Robin, and the duo added an unconquered 100 runs for the eighth wicket, Dhoni making 45 from 68 balls and Bhuvneshwar bringing up his maiden half-century to give India a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.       

At one point, relentless rain was the only hope Sri Lanka had after putting up 236 for 8 batting first. A mild shower ensured that when play resumed, India were set a revised target of 231 from 47 overs. When the chase got underway, Sri Lanka went back to hoping for an intervention, divine or otherwise, and it arrived in the form of a 23-year-old from Panadura.     

Dananjaya threw his kitchen sink-full of tricks at India and finished with 6 for 54 from 10 overs, though it was an effort that was just not enough to haul his team over the line. But the fight put up by the hosts would have come as a balm to the followers who sat through the humiliation of the 3-0 Test series drubbing and the nine-wicket loss in the first ODI in Dambulla.

Akila Dananjaya celebrates with his team-mates after snaring his sixth victim – AP

Once India raced to 109 for no loss with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan taking the bowlers apart, scoring 54 and 49 respectively, the fans braced for another hiding. But over the course of the next 39 balls, they found a new reason to dance. The papare band was only providing the background music this time.     

Dananjaya, who replaced Lakshan Sandakan for this game, was brought on in the 12th over and did not faze India’s opening duo in his first two overs. In the third, however, the offspinner (officially at least) trapped Rohit leg before wicket with a leg-break.     

The crowd finally found its voice, but the task ahead was so daunting that few believed that Sri Lanka had a chance. The dreamers grew when Milinda Siriwardana sent Dhawan back, thanks to a fantastic catch by Angelo Mathews towards short fine-leg. 

Two down but plenty to go, so India were still on course. Then came Dananjaya’s third over.     

Kedar Jadhav, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul made no sense of an offspinner bowling googlies. Each of the three batsmen left a gap between bat and pad to have their stumps disturbed, leaving India at a precarious 119 for 5.     

Dhoni has faced his share of mystery bowlers over the course of 298 ODIs. That’s why it came as no surprise that the former skipper chose to tackle the youngster by stepping out to the pitch of the ball to counter the turn.     

Dananjaya’s figures at the time read: 6-0-30-6, not quite Ajantha Mendis from the Asia Cup in Karachi in 2008 (8-1-13-6), but it looked good enough for now. Dhoni had made 49 in that 100-run loss and was the ninth wicket to fall. On Thursday , there was not going to be a repeat in terms of the result.     

After the first ODI, Kohli called the nine-wicket walloping a “perfect game”. In Dambulla, as in here at the beautiful Pallekele, India’s batsmen looked to go for the kill after the bowling unit had done its job. This time around, Jasprit Bumrah donned the wrecker-in-chief tag.     

Bumrah finished with 4 for 43 from 10 remarkably planned overs. Off-cutters, a couple of knuckle balls, awkwardly angled short balls and yorkers – but of course — were all on the menu.     

Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera got a decent read on Bumrah as they strung a face-saving 91-run sixth-wicket partnership with the former scoring 58 and the latter coming up with 40. But Bumrah, being the death-over specialist that he is, accounted for them before they could swell the tally considerably.       

With the new ball — he shared opening duties with Bhuvneshwar — Bumrah hit the right line and length consistently, making it tough for the Sri Lankan openers to put him away easily. But a harder ball also meant that they did not need to force the situation. Runs came without much risk. It also came as a relief for Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka that Bhuvneshwar was struggling to get into a rhythm.

The duo kept the board ticking and reached 41 from 7 overs without having to try too hard. It is when they attempted to get a move on that things went horribly wrong, again. 

Bumrah, in response to Dickwella walking away from the stumps, followed the batsman with a cheeky off-cutter. Surprised, batsman, on 31 from 23 balls, offered a meek chip to find Dhawan’s leaping frame at short midwicket.

Kusal Mendis and Gunathilaka promised a steady partnership, but the latter gave it away in the 15th over. He stepped out with an eye on the area beyond the long-on fence. In misreading the flight, he ended up yorking himself and was not able to bring the bat down in time to dig it out. 

Dhoni fumbled but gathered himself to complete the stump, his  99th in ODIs, equalling Kumar Sangakkara’s world record.

Sri Lanka had lost their openers within the first 15 overs but there was no real cause for concern. That was only until Upul Tharanga and Mendis tried to manufacture shots when there was no need and lost their wickets in quick succession. Losing Mathews to an ill-advised sweep shot too proved costly as Sri Lanka slumped to 121 for 5.     

Which is why the Siriwardana-Kapugedera alliance gained significance. If it was not for that stance, Sri Lanka would not have even made it to 200. That, despite not having to face much of Pandya. Pandya tweaked his knee while bowling the first ball of his sixth over and bowled just one more delivery before coming off the field.

Coming out to bat, India believed nothing could go wrong and things went according to plan until Dananjaya willed his side towards the finish line. Not bad for someone who got married on Wednesday  afternoon and drove in from Moratuwa (a distance of 149 kilometers) to join the team in Kandy the same night.

Then again, how about this for a show from a 36-year-old supposedly on his last legs, and a No. 9 with the heart of a champion?

Courtesy/Source: Wisden India