Chetan Sakariya was the most impressive among the Indian debutants. Over the past 12-odd months, tragedy and ecstasy have played peek-a-boo with his life. In his maiden ODI, the left-arm seamer from Saurashtra briefly brought his team back into the game by claiming two quick wickets. But the Indian bowlers didn’t have enough runs to defend and Avishka Fernando, aided by a dropped catch on 68, took Sri Lanka over the line.

At long last, the islanders won an ODI against India; a three-wicket victory in a 227-run chase with 38 balls to spare. But more than the result, India would rue a below-par batting display that had a touch of complacency.

The three-match series was already won and from India’s point of view, naming five debutants for the third ODI made things exciting.

Sanju Samson has been in the T20I mix but this was his first ODI and he would be disappointed not to capitalise on a fine start. When he is timing the ball well, Samson oozes elegance. He was reading mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya from the hand, his footwork was nimble and his treatment of offie Ramesh Mendis bordered on contemptuous. A run-a-ball 46 on Friday was easy on the eye, but Samson became greedy and was caught at extra cover while trying to play one lofted drive too many.

K Gowtham missed a full-toss from Dananjaya as he attempted a premeditated paddle. Then, he reviewed the stone-dead LBW decision which made even the bowler scratch his head. When he bowled, Gowtham was a tad nervy to start with, but got his maiden ODI wicket in his first over by dismissing Minod Bhanuka.

Flurry of wickets

Nitish Rana came at No. 7 and the situation presented him with an excellent opportunity to bat long and resurrect India’s innings. The tourists were 147/3 after 23 overs when rain stopped play. On resumption, the ball started to grip on the surface, thanks to some extra moisture. Four wickets fell in quick succession and Rana was the last specialist batsman standing. But he tried an expansive drive, disrespecting the loop and turn from Dananjaya. The dropped catch of Bhanuka Rajapaksa added insult to injury.

Rahul Chahar, despite being a tail-ender, showed application and added 29 runs with Navdeep Saini for the ninth wicket to give India’s total some respectability. His bowling (3/54) found zip towards the back end of Sri Lanka’s innings. Prithvi Shaw couldn’t hold on to an edge from Ramesh Mendis. Another wicket on the heels of Dasun Shanaka’s exit could have made matters interesting.

When India batted, Shikhar Dhawan was done in by the away movement from Dushmantha Chameera. Manish Pandey yet again got out after playing himself in and Hardik Pandya was squared up by the sharp turn from left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and was caught plumb in front.

Shaw batted well for his 49. Only a run shy of his maiden ODI half-century, the opener shuffled across a little too much against Shanaka and was trapped leg-before. Suryakumar Yadav was batting at a higher level. For example, the deliveries to which Samson went full-stretch forward to drive through the cover region, Yadav just stood and walloped. But after scoring a classy 40 off 37 balls, he couldn’t negotiate the sharp turn from Dananjaya. The latter’s 3/44 from 10 overs was well-deserved. Jayawickrama returned with 3/59.

The game was reduced to 47-over-a-side and India were all out in 43.1. The hosts needed a brisk start to gain ascendancy. A 109-run second-wicket partnership between Fernando and Rajapaksa set them up for a consolation win, some late jitters notwithstanding.



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