From the time Thisara Perera won the toss, Sri Lanka hardly put a foot wrong in the first One-Day International in Dharamsala on Sunday (December 10) as they decimated India by seven wickets.
With Suranga Lakmal (4 for 13) in the forefront, the Sri Lankan seamers made the most of the favourable conditions to bowl India out for 112 in 38.2 overs. It could have been much worse for India, who found themselves 29 for 7 in the 17th over, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni dug his heels in and made 65 off 87 before being last man dismissed.
Sri Lanka too didn’t have a great start to their chase but finished with a flourish, coasting to 114 for 3 in just 20.4 and putting an end to their 12-match losing streak in the 50-over format.
Danushka Gunathilaka looked out of sorts against the new ball, Jasprit Bumrah ending his misery by dismissing him for one. Bumrah could have had Upul Tharanga too in his next over when the left-hand batsman edged to Dinesh Karthik in the cordon slip. But the bowler had only himself to blame as replays confirmed that he had overstepped.
When Lahiru Thirimanne got an inside-edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar on to his stumps, it looked as if India could make a game of it. But Tharanga struck a flurry of boundaries through offside as the 50 came up for Sri Lanka in the 11th over even though batsmen at the other end found it difficult to score.
Tharanga hit ten fours in his 46-ball 49 before edging to Shikhar Dhawan – who took the catch on the second attempt – off Hardik Pandya. Niroshan Dickwella was typically aggressive, scoring an unbeaten 26 off 24 balls with five fours as Sri Lanka wrapped up the game in style.
In the morning, Lakmal was almost unplayable. Having dismissed KL Rahul off the first ball of the Test series last month, he almost produced a wicket with the first delivery here too. Rohit Sharma, like Perera leading the ODI side for the first time with Virat Kohli rested, hung his bat outside off, but luckily for him, the edge fell well short of second slip.
After beating Dhawan twice with away-going deliveries earlier in the over, Angelo Mathews got one to come back in to rap the left-hand batsman in front. Simon Fry, the on-field umpire, ruled the batsman not out but Sri Lanka smartly reviewed and got the decision 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 Karthik and Manish Pandey in quick succession to leave the hosts 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 before chopping Nuwan Pradeep onto his stumps as half the Indian side was back in the pavilion with the score just 16. Pradeep then had Pandya caught at first slip to silence the big crowd even more.
When Bhuvneshwar joined Dhoni, India might have hoped for a repeat of their unbeaten 100-run stand in Pallekele earlier this year. Instead, Lakmal dismissed Bhuvneshwar for the third duck of the innings. It was only after Lakmal bowled out his ten overs on the trot that India could breathe a bit easier in the pollution-free environs.
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, India seemed on course to be bundled out for their lowest ODI score (54), 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. Just 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. Kuldeep scored 19 off 25 balls, the second-highest score of the innings.
After that, Dhoni farmed 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 Bumrah was bowled by Sachith Pathirana, the left-arm spinner. Meanwhile, Dhoni brought up his fifty with a six and a four in one Pradeep over before taking the side past 100 with another six, this time off Pathirana.
Dhoni hit 10 fours and two sixes and proved to be a thorn in Sri Lanka’s side, but the visitors didn’t have too much trouble chasing down the paltry total.