Sri Lankan cricket fans will wonder what is more frustrating: losing by a wide margin thanks to yet another despondent display from their side, or coming so close, yet being so far from victory.
India somehow defeated Sri Lanka despite losing 7 wickets in the space of 22 runs. The Sri Lankans scored 236 in the first innings, but rain and the Duckworth-Lewis system meant that India needed 231 in 47 overs.
The visitors started well, with their openers putting up a 100 run stand but a superb bowling performance from Akila Dananjaya saw India fall from 109-0 to 131-7 after Kohli demoted himself in the batting order to give Jadhav and Rahul some time out in the middle.
The match looked done and dusted, with India having one of their classic collapses. However, an unlikely hero in Bhuvneshwar Kumar saved India with the bat by scoring his maiden ODI half-century along with MS Dhoni, who scored a crucial 45 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Despite the result, Sri Lanka will be buoyed by their performance in the last match. However, both teams have issues they need to solve before the next match takes place.
Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Chamara Kapugedera (captain), Milinda Siriwardana, Malinda Pushpakumara, Akila Dananjaya, Lakshan Sandakan, Thisara Perera, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando
Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur
Where the Teams Stand
Despite Dananjaya’s heroics, Sri Lanka have two problems. CricBuzz reported that Tharanga has received a two-match ban for slow over-rate in the second ODI. This is not the first time he is being banned. The same thing happened during the Champions Trophy 2017, and Tharanga does not seem to have learned his lesson. The second problem, related to the first, is that the interim captain is Chamara Kapugedera, despite the likes of Mathews and others being far more deserving of the position.
Gunathilaka has been ruled out of the next two games thanks to an injury he suffered while fielding, however, he probably will not be missed too much. Chandimal and Thirimanne have been recalled to the squad in light of the ban and injury.
Tharanga’s ban could be a good thing for Sri Lanka. The stalwart has had a horrible Test series and has scored 22 in the two ODI’s so far. The rest have all gotten off to healthy starts, but have failed to convert it into a game-changing performance. To challenge a team like India, Sri Lanka need at least 300, so they need to score at a much faster rate.
Two of the three changes Sri Lanka made paid huge dividends. Siriwardene scored a handy 58, and bowled 10 overs for 39 runs, while Dananjaya ended the match with figures of 6-54. Chameera, who replaced Perera, bowled 7 overs for 45 runs. Chameera’s selection over Pushpakumara is a conundrum only the selectors can answer. The latter’s record easily outshines the former’s, and mistakes such as this and the appointment of Kapugedera is partly why Sri Lankan cricket is in the state it is in.
Kudos to Sri Lanka for reducing India to 131-7, but losing the match regardless with 3 overs to spare and 3 wickets left is an occurrence one might put down to bad luck. Who expected Kumar to put up a 100 run stand with Dhoni?
But this outcome just goes to show that Sri Lanka are overly dependent on the standout performance of an individual rather than a collective team performance. The Sri Lankan seamers are yet to take a wicket in two matches and 42.2 overs of bowling. The home side’s performance eventually comes down to the exploits of one man, and he won’t be able to do it all the time.
India’s collapse, now they have salvaged it, can be seen as a blessing in disguise. Before the series began, many expressed their doubts regarding Dhoni’s role down the order, and if he could still be as effective as before. This match should silence all the critics. Kumar’s brilliant half-century under pressure is also a great sign for Indian cricket, giving the team another potential batsman if he can do this with some level of consistency.
The match also highlights two long-standing issues with India’s batting. As a general rule, India’s success largely rests on the performance of Virat Kohli, the way it did on Sachin Tendulkar’s performance before him. His failure means the team’s failure.
Besides Kohli, India also need to get their middle order in place. The side has three finishers in Dhoni, Pandya, and Jadhav, the last of who is unlikely to be selected for the next match given his performance and the likes of Pandey and Rahane waiting for a chance. KL Rahul will also want to prove his worth in the shorter format after performing brilliantly in the Tests.
The consistency of India’s youngsters will be a welcome sign. Axar might just give Ashwin or Jadeja a run for their money if he can improve with the bat, and Chahal is a worthy leg-spinner in a team dominated by finger spin.
The visitors have always been susceptible to such collapses, and it would not have come as a surprise to fans of the team. Kohli and his side must focus on the ultimate result of the last match and carry on with their preparations for the next one. They know they are by far the better team, and that this was a one-off which will not happen often.
Sri Lanka are due for a big score, but India should win regardless.
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