The pitch was dry. Dunith Wellalage, the allrounder, could not put a foot wrong. Charith Asalanka, a part-time offie, came to the party. So did India’s more accomplished tweakers. But in a low-scoring affair, it was India’s opening combination with the bat and the ball that turned out to be the difference between the sides.
Riding on captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill’s 80-run stand and a fiery spell from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj up front, India broke Sri Lanka’s 13-match unbeaten streak with a convincing 41-run win. The win meant it had one foot in Sunday’s Asia Cup final, with two games remaining in the Super Fours stage.
With a dry surface in offing, adjacent to the one used for India’s clash versus Pakistan that turned out to be a two-day affair, both the teams had packed their line-ups with spinners. Shardul Thakur was thus replaced with Axar Patel in India’s team. Axar did help India cross the 200-run mark with sensible batting towards the end but had it not been for Rohit’s charge in the Powerplay, India could have struggled to get anywhere near the total it received.
Rohit’s lazy elegance was on display time and again, be it in a crisp drive off Kasun Rajitha in the opening over or his straight six over the pacer’s head that helped the veteran become the second-fastest to 10,000 ODI runs.
He went after his Sri Lanka counterpart Dasun Shanaka, welcoming him into the attack with four fours and then swivelled Matheesha Pathirana’s short ball over the ropes. But in the 12th over, Shanaka took himself off and brought on Wellalage.
The left-arm spinner struck once in each of his first three overs to bring Sri Lanka into the game. He got rid of Shubman Gill (undone in flight), Virat Kohli (the ball stuck into the pitch, caught at midwicket) and Rohit (skidded and kept low) and got Sri Lanka back in the game.
From then on, India struggled to accumulate runs. With Wellalage adding two more to become the youngest Sri Lankan to pick up a five-wicket haul in ODIs and Asalanka running through the lower order, India was bowled out for 213.
Bumrah and Siraj then showed their class by striking thrice in the Powerplay. Both were virtually unplayable, with Bumrah picking two. Kuldeep then struck twice in quick succession, including the fluent Sadeera Samarawickrama.
When Ravindra Jadeja enticed an edge off Shanaka to Rohit in the slips, at 99 for six, the game was all but over. But Dhananjaya de Silva found an able ally in Wellalage to give the largest turnout a glimmer of hope.
But the 63-run partnership was broken, thanks to Shubman Gill’s sharp catch at mid-on to see de Silva’s back. Kuldeep then ran through the tail to hand India a comfortable win.
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