IND vs SL: Sri Lanka stuns India in ODI series opener

India would do well to conduct a crash course in tackling the moving ball by holding a camp at the HPCA Stadium here prior to the team’s departure to South Africa. If not for M. S. Dhoni drawing on his experience to compile a half century the host would have been deeply embarrassed in the first ODI of the current series against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella celebrate their victory over India in in Dharamshala on Sunday.   -  PTI

India would do well to conduct a crash course in tackling the moving ball by holding a camp at the HPCA Stadium here prior to the team’s departure to South Africa. If not for M. S. Dhoni drawing on his experience to compile a half century the host would have been deeply embarrassed in the first ODI of the current series against Sri Lanka.

The seven-wicket win for Sri Lanka came with 176 balls to spare and that was the overwhelming difference between the teams. The match witnessed an 11.30 start to counter the dew factor which, thanks to India’s miserable performance, did not even come into play.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It is another matter that Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave some indications of how they could make the ball talk in favourable conditions. But the prime concerns regarding the old Indian fallibility against the seaming ball stood glaringly exposed on a lively pitch after Sri Lanka rightly opted to bowl. Strangely, Rohit Sharma, making his debut as a captain, professed a diametrically opposite view, saying he would have loved to bat first.

There was lateral movement enough to test the batting technique but the Indians looked woefully inadequate and out of place. The way some of the batsmen were squared up by the Lankan seamers must give a sleepless night to assistant coach Sanjay Bangar, who was adept at handling seam and swing. Bangar has worked hard with this set of batsmen but the sight of them losing their wickets one after another was not pleasant at all.

It was good old Dhoni who gave the Indian resistance some face with a knock that brought back memories of his heyday when he would carry the innings on his shoulders in the company of tail-enders. Dhoni loves such situations when he is pitted alone against an army of performing bowlers. This was the stage that he dominated for so long and relived some of those brilliant times today with an innings that reflected his character – strong and unflinching.

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Sri Lankan paceman Suranga Lakmal, also the `Man of the match’,  rattled the Indians the way he had shaken them in the first hour of the first Test at Kolkata. He is a bowler who is invigorated with an early success and comes hard at the batsmen with his crafty work with the new ball. The seam movement was directed with the aim to make the batsmen play. There were plenty of edges as India’s best batsmen looked clueless against Lakmal, who bowled unchanged.

It was Lakmal versus India and he won hands down. After Angelo Mathews got Shikhar Dhawan to the 12th ball of the morning with a ball that swung in, Lakmal triggered the disintegration of the Indian innings with three strikes – Rohit Sharma to an away moving ball, Dinesh Karthik to one that nipped in and Manish Pandey squared up. At 16 for four, India lay bruised and battered and three more wickets in the span of 23 balls left the large turn out of home spectators disillusioned with their heroes.

In Dhoni, the Indian dressing room found a man who chose to fight. He shielded his partners, picked the odd-ball to punish, and remained committed to his job with some excellent footwork to `kill’ the movement off the pitch. His knock apart there was nothing for India to cherish as a spirited Sri Lanka thoroughly exposed the brittle technique of the home batsmen.

The target of 112 was hardly a challenge. True, Sri Lanka lost two early wickets and ought to have been three down but for Bumrah bowling a wicket-taking no-ball to Upul Tharanga when he was on 11. The left-handed opener mocked at the attack with a 49-ball assault with ten boundaries as Sri Lanka cantered home in style. When the Indians introspect this contest they can give a serious thought to a preparatory camp at this venue. It won’t be out of place ahead of the tour to South Africa.

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