After looking completely out of sorts in the opening ODI, Sri Lanka performed quite brilliantly to take the fight back to India in the second game on Tuesday. However, an exceptional lower-order hand from Deepak Chahar meant the visitors still came out triumphant and sealed the three-match series 2-0.
Having reduced India to 193/7 in the 36th over defending their score of 275, Sri Lanka had a firm grip over the contest and looked like finally ending their longstanding losing streak in ODIs at home against their subcontinent rivals.
But memorable innings of 69 not out from fast-bowler Deepak and his unbeaten partnership with fellow paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar (19*) helped India pull off an unexpected victory at the end.
Unlike the last game, India began their run-chase precariously, losing their aggressive young top-order batsmen Prithvi Shaw (13) and Ishan Kishan (1) very early in the piece. Stand-in captain Shikhar Dhawan, who had top-scored in the last game, did hang around for a while and resurrected the innings somewhat in a partnership with Manish Pandey. But just then, he was pinned in front of the stumps by the incisive Wanindu Hasaranga, who had got the better of the explosive Shaw as well.
The classy looking Suryakumar Yadav then joined the experienced Manish, and the duo batted fluently for their fourth-wicket partnership of 50 runs. While Manish was severe on anything lose, Suryakumar showed incredible control and skill, hitting even the good balls for boundaries on either side of the wicket. That partnership reinforced the skill gap between the two sides as Sri Lanka seemed helpless in their effort to stop the two batsmen.
However, in a lucky break, Manish got run-out at the other end after opposition skipper Dasun Shanaka got Suryakumar playing too straight off his gentle medium pace bowling. Having backed up a touch too far, Manish couldn’t recover and reach the crease back on time as Shanaka got his fingers on the ball before it rolled onto the stumps. Shanaka then got Hardik Pandya also miscuing a slow ball straight to the short-leg fielder to leave India reeling at 116/5.
Despite that blow, Suryakumar retained his fluent ways past fifty and had another all-round cricketer Krunal Pandya for a company at the other end. While Krunal never really looked comfortable at the crease, he managed to hang around and find a way to score runs. It was another of India’s stand that promised so much before proving to be the false dawn as Suryakumar got out LBW off the otherwise struggling Lakshan Sandakan. Soon, Krunal was also dismissed bowled by Hasaranga for his third wicket on the night.
With Bhuvneshwar and Chahar left at the crease, Sri Lanka were only one strike away from completely taking the game away from India. But, as he did four years back on the Lankan shores in a stand with the great MS Dhoni, here Bhuvneshwar held his own at an end and rotated the strike well for his more organised partner. Deepak played cautiously at the start of his innings before opening up to take a few calculative risks against the pacers whenever the asking rate went above the run-a-ball mark.
Fortunately for India, those calculative risks came off, which meant that Deepak and Bhuvneshwar could play out Hasaranga’s last few overs without having to use the long handle against him. The win at the end was a reward for as much the two men’s strong temperament, self-belief and resilience as it was of their skill and overall ability.
Apart from Hasaranga, only medium pacer Chamika Karunaratne (0/26) and Shanaka (1/10) looked good enough control while the hosts bowled as the Sri Lankan depth or lack of it stood exposed again under pressure.
Earlier in the game, half-centuries from Avishka Fernando (50), Charith Asalanka (65) and a late blitz from Chamika Karunaratne (44) propelled Sri Lanka past the 270-mark after winning the toss and opting to bat first.
A similar theme followed for India with the ball, as their quicks struggled in the opening powerplay before spinners pulled the game back for the visitors and inspired the revival of their pacemen. Yuzvendra Chahal (3/50) was the pick of the bowlers for the tourists. India’s batting saviours on the night, Bhuvneshwar (3/54) and Deepak (2/53) also shared five wickets between them in the first half.
The end outcome would’ve been gut-wrenching for Sri Lanka. Even at their best and India’s worst, it was the visitors who came out triumphant. They also took 10 more ICC Super League points away and further dented Sri Lanka’s chance of making the 2023 World Cup directly.
Sri Lanka 275/9 in 50 overs (Asalanka 65, Avishka Fernando 50, Chahal 3/50, Bhuvneshwar 3/54) lost to India 277/7 in 49.1 overs (Deepak Chahar 69*, Suryakumar 53, Hasaranga 3/37, Shanaka 1/10) by 3 wickets