A rejigged Indian team promised a lot but delivered little as Sri Lanka finally managed to win a ODI on home soil after nine long years, beating the visitors by three wickets in the third and final match of the series on Friday.
While India won the three-match ODI series 2-1, the exciting rookies who were blooded on the day still have a long way to go before they can come close to challenging the big boys after the Sri Lankan spinners made full use of a rain break to bowl out Shikhar Dhawan‘s men for 225 in 43.1 overs out of a possible 47.
It wasn’t defendable, especially for an attack that had four debutant bowlers as Avishka Fernando (76 off 98 balls) anchored the chase, laying the foundation with a 109-run stand with Bhanuka Rajapaksa (65, 56 balls).
The only silver lining would be a big-hearted effort from left-arm seamer Chetan Sakariya (2/34 in 8 overs), including a back of the hand delivery that reared up awkwardly and lobbed off Dhananjaya de Silva‘s gloves. Rahul Chahar (3/54 in 10 overs) was also impressive as he delayed the inevitable with some impressive stuff towards the end.
The 227-run chase as per DLS method was finally completed in 39 overs as it was Sri Lanka’s first ODI win at home against India since July 24, 2012 and first victory against them since 2017 ODI at Djaramsala.
Rahul Dravid and skipper Dhawan would be unhappy with a low-intensity performance on the day, especially the fielding effort which was poor to say the least as three catches were dropped.
India’s young batsmen paid for their profligacy and inexperience as Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya forced them to make a mess while playing for exaggerated turn which wasn’t there in the first place.
With the series already pocketed, India coach Dravid experimented with the bowling line-up along with a couple of changes in the batting order, but it was evident that the lack of game awareness became their undoing on the day.
The rain break at the end of the 23rd over, which reduced the game to 47 overs per side, helped the home team.
The pitch suddenly had a bit of freshness and the ball would both grip and skid, making life easier for the spinners, who rocked the middle-order.
The latest trend of young batters not being able to cope up with slow bowlers was on show as the middle-order looked clueless against Jayawickrama (3/59 in 10 overs) and Dananjaya (3/44 in 10 overs), who, in his second spell, blew away the lower middle order with turn and bounce.
However, Prithvi Shaw (49 off 49 balls) dazzled with his breathtaking array of strokes, while Sanju Samson again made batting look easy in his run-a-ball 46.
If Shaw slog-swept Jayawickrama in front and behind square, Samson would play the inside out cover drive with effortless ease.
They added 74 runs in 13.2 overs and one can’t fault anyone who was dreaming of something big as the duo injected life in a dead rubber.
Samson was in no mood to relent but an uppish inside-out check drive was plucked by Avishka Fernando at extra-cover, like a fruit from the tree.
Post the break, when India resumed at 147 for three, the spinners suddenly started getting more turn and the rain had spiced up the pitch.
Pandey, who, perhaps, will not get any more chance on the tour or even in near future, blew it away when Jayawickrama deceived him with a beautifully flighted delivery.
It was a typical orthodox left-arm spinner’s dismissal as the ball spun enough to beat Pandey, who went for an expansive drive.
Hardik Pandya (17) smashed three boundaries but Jayawickrama, already pumped up with twin scalps, got another one that turned enough to square up the colourful Baroda man.
Kumar Dharmasena’s poor day just became worse as the third umpire overruled him for the umpteenth time during the match.
Suryakumar Yadav (40 off 37 balls) again batted like a dream and hit seven boundaries but just like in the last match, the ball that sharply turns in became his undoing.
The propensity to keep the bat behind the pads didn’t work as Dananjaya’s off-break found him leg before.
Debutants Krishnappa Gowtham and IPL specialist Nitish Rana both looked out of place under lights.
Gowtham played a nothing shot to a full-toss from Dananjaya while Rana was beaten for turn.