From the time Thisara Perera won the toss, Sri Lanka hardly put a foot wrong in the first One-Day International against India in Dharamsala on Sunday (December 10). The Sri Lankan seamers, Suranga Lakmal starring with 4 for 13, made the most of the swinging conditions to bowl India out for 112 in 38.2 overs.
It could have been much worse for the hosts, though. They were 29 for 7 in the 17th over, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni dug in his heels and made 65 off 87 before being the last wicket to fall.
Lakmal, who dismissed KL Rahul off the first ball of the Test series last month, almost produced a wicket on the first delivery here too. Rohit Sharma, leading the side with VIrat Kohli rested, hung his bat outside off, but luckily for him the edge fell well short of wide second slip.
After beating Shikhar Dhawan twice with away-going deliveries earlier in the over, Angelo Mathews got one to come back in to rap the left-hander in front. Simon Fry, the on-field umpire, gave the decision in the batsman’s favour, but Sri Lanka smartly reviewed and got it overturned.
Two overs later, Lakmal got his man when he induced a faint edge from Rohit, once again given out on review. Lakmal then rocked the Indian innings, dismissing Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey in quick succession to leave India reeling at 16 for 4 in 12.5 overs. Karthik, who faced 18 deliveries, registered the slowest duck for an Indian in ODIs, going past Eknath Solkar’s 17-ball toil.
Shreyas Iyer, the debutant, too didn’t look comfortable during his 27-ball stay at the crease before chopping one from Nuwan Pradeep onto his stumps as half of the Indian side was back in the pavilion with the scoreboard reading just 16. Pradeep then had Hardik Pandya caught at first slip.
When Bhuvneshwar Kumar joined Dhoni, India might have hoped for a repeat of the unbeaten 100-run stand between the duo in Kandy earlier this year. Instead, Lakmal dismissed Bhuvneshwar for the third duck of the innings. It was only after Lakmal finished his quota of overs, bowling all ten in the same spell, India could breathe a bit easier in an otherwise pollution-free atmosphere.
It was then left to Dhoni, for the umpteenth time in his career, to shepherd the tail and take India to a respectable total. At one stage, it looked like India will be bundled out for their lowest ODI score, but they got a move on, mostly via inside and outside edges, once the sun came out.
Dhoni and Kuldeep Yadav added 41 for the eighth wicket to take the score to 70. As Dhoni was starting to trust his partner, Akila Dananjaya broke the stand, drawing Kuldeep forward with a tossed up delivery and getting him stumped. He scored 19 off 25 balls, including four boundaries, the second-highest score of the innings.
After that, Dhoni farmed most of the strike as Perera introduced spin from both ends. The strategy of looking to score boundaries in the initial part of the over before taking a single seemed to work for a while before Jasprit Bumrah missed one from Sachith Pathirana and was struck on the pads. Anil Chaudhary, the umpire, didn’t take time to raise the finger only to find the impact outside off as Dhoni, from the non-strikers’ end, immediately chose to review the decision.
Bumrah failed to take any advantage of the reprieve and was bowled in Pathirana’s next over while looking to go big. Meanwhile, Dhoni brought up his fifty with a six and a four in Pradeep’s single over before taking the side past 100 with another six, this time off Pathirana.
Dhoni hit ten fours and two sixes, and proved to be thorn in Sri Lanka’s side, but the visitors will back themselves to chase the total down.