Sri Lanka salvage pride in the dead rubber with a 3-wicket victory
The half-centuries from Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa ensured that Sri Lanka salvaged pride as they overcame the stern Indian challenge in the third and final One Day International at the R.Premadasa Stadium on Friday. Having sealed the series, Team India had the luxury of giving newcomers a chance.
Inevitably, the visitors fielded five debutants - Sanju Samson, Nitish Rana, K Gowtham, Rahul Chahar, and Chethan Sakariya - in the final ODI fixture. Although it was a dead rubber, Sri Lanka had a lot to play for.
After losing two tosses on the trot, Shikhar Dhawan finally called right at the toss and opted to bat first. The southpaw celebrated the occasion with his iconic thigh-five antics, which had everyone in splits. Prithvi Shaw and Dhawan strode out to the middle. The skipper displayed sporadic flashes of brilliance, pummeling three boundaries. While a big knock was due, it appeared that he would finally get a big one. Unfortunately, Dushmantha Chameera cut short his stay at the crease. The 35-year-old attempted to heave it over cover but ended up edging it to the keeper. Debutant Sanju Samson joined Shaw in the middle. They both were quick off the blocks. Shaw, however, scored the lion’s share of runs in a 74-run stand with Samson. While the runs continued to flow, Dasun Shanaka took matters into his own hands. He provided the much-needed breakthrough dismissing the in-form Shaw. The 21-year-old fell one run short of his maiden half-century. Samson looked solid throughout the course of the innings. His 46-ball stay at the crease came to a halt when he holed out to the fielder stationed at extra cover. Soon thereafter, rain made an appearance, reducing the game to a 47-overs a side affair. After the interruption, Sri Lanka spinners asserted undeniable dominance over the Indian batters. The defining passage of the play came right after the rain interruption in India’s innings. At the time of interruption, India were 147 for three with Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav at the crease. A score of over 300 looked well within reach. Sri Lanka’s Praveen Jayawickrama and Akhila Dananjaya had other ideas. After erring in the lengths initially, the spinners finally fired in unison after the forced break. There was never a let up in the intensity. The runs were coming in trickles. The spin twins tightened the noose. With dot balls multiplying, the pressure was proliferating. Pandey’s poor run of form continued as he was dismissed for just 11 runs. The Mumbaikar, on the other hand, held fort at the other end, and used sweep shots to great effect.
Just when it appeared that Yadav would take India to a total of around 250, he was trapped in front. Following his dismissal, K Gowtham and Nitish Rana too did not trouble the scorers much. A brief partnership between Navdeep Saini and Rahul Chahar ensured that India crossed the 220-run mark. For Sri Lanka, 27-year-old Dananjaya was the pick of the bowlers. He returned with figures of 3/44 in his 10 overs, claiming the crucial wickets of Suryakumar Yadav, Rana and Gowtham.
With the track playing its tricks, chasing a small total was always dicey. Despite losing Minod Bhanuka early on, the hosts effortlessly nullified the early damage, courtesy the 109-run partnership between Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksha. They both were crystal clear in their approach, keeping the scoreboard ticking all the time. Chethan Sakariya, who was making his debut tonight, dismissed the well-set Rajapaksa for 65 and followed it up with a wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva. Fernando used all his experience and provided stability during the run-chase. Sri Lanka had it under their control for the majority part of the game. But cricket, as we know, is a fickle game. One wicket brings two. Two brings three. Fernando’s dismissal triggered a batting collapse. But in the end, they held their nerves and romped home safely. With that victory, the hosts ended their losing streak against India. However, Shikhar Dhawan's men will be pretty pleased with how the series turned out. This series is another demonstration of India’s bench strength in the limited-overs set-up.