Riding on an all-round effort from the bowlers and an unbeaten half-century from KL Rahul, India won another bilateral series at home on Thursday. Kuldeep Yadav (3/51), Mohammed Siraj (3/30), and Umran Malik (2/48) dismissed Sri Lanka for 215 inside 40 overs. India almost made a mess of chasing an easy target under lights, slumping to 86 for 4, but managed to win by four wickets, courtesy Rahul’s patient 64 off 103 deliveries.
First in Guwahati and now in Kolkata, Sri Lanka looked no match for the Indian team. Their batsmen struggled against both pace and spin, their fielders let balls slip between their legs and dropped catches, and their bowlers sprayed the white ball all over the place. Dasun Shanaka’s team got outplayed in all departments by a power-packed Indian line-up.
Indian pacers Mohammed Shami and Siraj were on point with the new ball. Both beat the outside edge several times, and a few thick outside edges also flew wide of the slip cordon.
The impressive Siraj provided the hosts with the first breakthrough with the wicket of Avishka Fernando. Siraj, after being hit for a hat-trick of boundaries, pulled his length back and got Avishka with the one that nipped in, kissed the inside edge and crashed into the stumps.
Sri Lanka crossed the 200-run mark mainly due to the efforts of debutant opener Nuwanidu Fernando (50) and his brisk 73-run stand for the second wicket with Kusal Mendis (34). Nuwanindu replaced in-form opener Pathum Nissanka (stiff back) and looked solid. Only briefly, during that stand, did Sri Lanka look competitive. The rest of the Sri Lankan batsmen were all at sea the moment Rohit brought in Kuldeep and Axar Patel into the attack.
Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep, who came in after leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal pulled out with a ‘sore right shoulder’, had an excellent outing. In his first over, he broke the threatening stand between Nuwanindu and Mendis. That triggered a Sri Lanka collapse as they lost five wickets for 24 runs in 45 balls – Dhananjaya de Silva (0), Nuwanindu, in-form skipper Shanaka (2), and Charith Asalanka (15). Kuldeep bowled Shanaka when the skipper got too far across for an attempted sweep, and had Asalanka pop a tame return catch.
The wicket of Nuwanindu, the only Sri Lankan batsman who looked at ease against the spinners, came via the brilliance of Shubman Gill in the field. Nuwanindu tucked one to mid-wicket, where Gill dived full-length to stop the ball even as both Nuwanindu and Asalanka were caught ball-watching. Nuwanindu was far down the pitch when he hit the brakes and never made it back.
Wanindu Hasaranga (21) and Dunith Wellalage’s (32) quickfire cameos helped Sri Lanka recover somewhat from 126 for 6. Hasaranga and Chamika Karunaratne got out in similar fashion, trying to punch Umran’s 145 kph thunderbolts, and ended up being caught at backward point by Axar. Siraj then returned to wrap up the tail with 10.2 overs still left in the Sri Lankan innings.
In reply, India kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Rohit Sharma, who looked in excellent touch, nicked one to the wicketkeeper off Karunaratne on 17. Gill, who raced to 21 off 12 with the help of five fours, pulled Lahiru Kumara straight to Avishka Fernando at short mid-wicket.
Virat Kohli, who walked in to thunderous applause, walked back amid deafening silence. Kohli was done by one nipping in from Kumara and got an inside edge onto his stumps.
Shreyas Iyer, who like Gill was looking in fine nick, also hit five fours, before being caught plumb in front by Kasun Rajitha.
At 86 for 4, India were in a spot of bother. But Rahul and the newly-appointed ODI vice-captain Hardik Pandya (36) curbed their attacking instincts and steadied the ship. Rahul and Pandya put on 75 in just under 20 overs.
Karunaratne, in his second spell, dismissed Pandya to break the fifth-wicket stand. Pandya played away from the body and got an outside edge to wicketkeeper Mendis.
The wicket opened up the match with India’s last two designated batsmen at the crease and another 55 runs still needed. Axar, who is enjoying a great run with the bat, didn’t waste much time in getting into the act by hitting a four and a six off Karunaratne to ease the pressure.
However, he fell for 21; seeking to get the remaining runs quickly, he played a lofted extra-cover drive off Dhananjaya de Silva. Karunaratne ran to his right from long-off and completed an excellent catch.
Meanwhile, Rahul completed his fifty off 93 balls and ensured India reached home without any further hiccups in the company of Kuldeep.
Sri Lanka 215 all out in 39.4 overs (Nuwanidu Fernando 50, Kusal Mendis 34; Kuldeep Yadav 3/51, Mohammed Siraj 3/30, Umran Malik 2/48) lost to India 219 for 6 in 43.2 overs (KL Rahul 64 not out, Hardik Pandya 36; Chamika Karunaratne 2/51, Lahiru Kumara 2/64) by 4 wickets
SL’s early fall delays Pele laser show
By getting out early, the visiting team ruined Cricket Association of Bengal’s (CAB) plan to have a laser show while paying tribute to legendary footballer Pele, who died recently, by showing footage of his artistry on giant screens during the innings break. The laser show had to be put off until the end of the match as it was not dark enough when Sri Lanka were bowled out.
On September 24, 1977, Pele had come to the Eden Gardens to play for New York Cosmos against Mohun Bagan. However, the surviving members of that Mohun Bagan side were not invited for the game as the CAB apparently forgot to send them invitations.