India 220 for 1 (Dhawan 132*, Kohli 82*) beat Sri Lanka 216 (Dickwella 64, Axar 3-34, Jadhav 2-26) by nine wickets
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan plundered a magnificent century and shared an unbeaten 197 runs for the second wicket skipper Virat Kohli to help India register an easy nine wicket win in the opening ODI here in Dambulla.
Chasing 217 to win, India had little trouble in reaching the target with 21.1 overs to spare to go one up in the five-match series. It was India’s biggest win in terms overs to spare for a target over 200 plus.
Dhawan hit an unbeaten 132 off 90 balls with 20 boundaries and three sixes in his 11th ODI century while Kohli remained unbeaten on 82 off 70 balls with ten boundaries and a six. It was a brutal batting effort by the Dhawan and Kohli who took the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword mercilessly. There was too little that the Sri Lankan bowlers could do after they were bowled out for a meager total by the Indian bowlers led by Axar Patel.
It was a masterclass from the Indian opener who reached his century off 71 balls, his fastest century of the 11 in career after another middle order collapsed restricted Sri Lanka to a below par 216 on a good batting wicket.
Put into bat first by Indian skipper who won his fourth straight toss in the series, Sri Lankan openers provided a blistering opening stand, but once they were gone, the rest of the batsmen followed in a possession. Niroshan Dickwella was the top scorer for hosts with 64 while his opening partner Danushka Gunathilaka made 35. After Gunathilaka departed when the score was on 74, Kusal Mendis and Dickwella kept the scoreboard ticking as Sri Lanka reached 139 for the loss of one wicket in the 25th over. But India struck soon removing confident looking Dickwella who was trapped leg before when he attempted to sweep S Yadav. Sri Lanka lost their remaining eight wickets for 77 runs. Mendis made 36. Former skipper Angelo Mathews was unbeaten on 36 as Sri Lanka were bowled out inside 42 overs.
Virat Kohl: They got off to a very good start. We thought we'd be chasing something close to 300; it was a brilliant wicket for batting. The whole idea of winning the toss and bowling first was hoping that the wicket would be slightly slow in the day. The ball was coming onto the bat like a dream under lights and Shikhar and I enjoyed batting together. At 129/1 we had a few things to think about but the bowlers came back superbly. The last three months have been a great time for Shikhar. The good thing is that he is capitalizing on his purple patch. He can win you games with the way he bats and we would be looking to keep him in that zone for as long as we can. He is feeling good about his game and is hitting the ball well.
When he plays like this he is a match-winner and even in Tests he can win you games with the bat. I feel we need to start planning for the 2019 World Cup around 24 months in advance, try to experiment a bit here and there. We are taking that as a challenge and are looking to try out different things, things we wouldn't do usually. You can see a lot of surprises over the next few games. All the guys have bought into it and I am very excited. We thought Axar was a gun fielder and he brings his batting into play; and felt that one wrist spinner is enough. Also, Axar is a power-hitting batsman capable of hitting the big shots and that helps us. If we get a dry wicket we could go in with three spinners and a fast bowling all-rounder. At the start of a series we need to up our batting and Axar brings that balance for us as a team.
Upul Tharanga: We started well but we did not capitalize after that. Someone should have carried on to get a big one after that. If you want to score 300, conversion of starts is important. This is what we have been lacking for the last 2-3 years. Everyone hasn't been getting runs for us. At one stage it looked like we would get to 300 but unfortunately we couldn't do it. We were restricted to 216 and in the end India played brilliantly. We need to learn from our mistakes here, someone needs to get a big one for us in the future. Even in the bowling, we need to step up.
Shikhar Dhawan: Things have been going well for me. I have only kept my focus on the processes and not on the results. The mental freedom helps me keep confidence in myself. You know that you have scored runs and can express yourself freely. I was just positive and was looking to score runs. I just wanted to play on the merit of the ball and keep my focus on.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli invited Sri Lanka to bat first in the opening ODI here in Dambulla. Sri Lanka handed debut to Vishwa Fernando, a left arm seamer who did reasonably well during the Test series and will pair up with Lasith Malinga who is playing his 200th ODI match. Thisara Perera and Chamara Kapugedera also earned recalls to the side.
India also made few changes with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were back to lead the seam attack and Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal would take care of spin-bowling duties. Hardik Pandya will play as the allrounder. Left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and Ajinkya Rahane, who had won a Man of the Series award last month was left on the bench.
Sri Lanka : 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Upul Tharanga (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Chamara Kapugedara, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Vishwa Fernando
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 KL Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
By Champika Fernando
Sri Lanka, after a crushing 3-0 hammering in the Test series, will look for a quick turn-around of fortunes when the five-match ODI series against India begins today in Dambulla.
Led by new ODI skipper Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka are under tremendous pressure going into the series as they must win at least two matches to secure a direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
Failure to do so will force Sri Lanka to join the four bottom ranked teams in playing qualification matches to secure one of two available spots for the tournament.
Sri Lanka’s recent record in ODI cricket is dismal with just four wins-- two against Zimbabwe and one each against India and Bangladesh--out of 16 matches.
They lost 11, among them a 5-0 defeat to the Proteas in early 2017 and a 3-2 thrashing by bottom-ranked Zimbabwe last month.
But skipper Tharanga says his charges are determined to reverse fortunes during the ODI series and urged everyone to rally behind the team. WATCH THE VIDEO
“This is the time for us to prove a point to the world, prove that we have the talent and ability regroup and win matches," he said
" We want to win. We have a good opportunity given that we have beaten them during the Champions Trophy."
Sri Lanka beat India when the two met at the Champions Trophy in June. But it remains doubtful whether the depleted home team can spring a surprise on the high-riding Indians who are armed with possibly one of the best bowling and batting units in the world.
“We should try to play with confidence and the fact that we beat them in the Champions Trophy gives us lot of confidence,” Tharanga said.
“We can perform well. We lack consistency and that has been a big drawback for us”.
Sri Lanka can look formidable on paper but recent history shows them consistently abandoning their fight when it matters the most.
Sri Lankan batters have the potential to number among the best in the world--such as when they chased down a big total during the Champions Trophy against India--but when they are struggling, they fall like ninepins regardless of who the opponent is.
Their defeat against Zimbabwe is a clear example.
In Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka, Sri Lanka may have found aggressors for the top order who could score rapid runs. But too often have they perished with the rest following in procession.
Sri Lanka have solidity in Kusal Mendis but his recent form hasn’t been encouraging. He has scored just 105 runs off his last five innings—86-0-28-0 and 1 and if Sri Lanka are to do any better, Mendis needs to plough a long innings.
With Gunathilka taking up the opener’s slot, skipper Upul Tharanga will bat at number four, a position long occupied by Dinesh Chandimal who is off the selectors' radar due to poor form.
Former skipper Angelo Mathews will hold the key and the news that he will be available for bowling is viewed as a major plus.
The team is without injured Asela Gunaratne and Kusal Janith Perera, two middle-order batsmen who have bailed Sri Lanka out on many occasions in recent months.
This leaves Chamara Kapugedara, a capable middle-order bat, with much responsibility for providing firepower at the end of the innings along with recalled all-rounders Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardana.
Their bowling is better equipped with Lasith Malinga’s return but in his last two series, the 33-yearold has not delivered. He is just short of two wickets to reach 300 ODI wickets.
The three-man pace attack also includes uncapped Vishwa Fernando and Dushmantha Chameera while the spin attack is led by Lakshan Sandakan supported by Wanindu Hasaranga, Akila Dananjaya and uncapped Malinda Pushpakumara.
Of late, Sri Lanka’s fielding has been atrocious. But Tharanga said a lot of emphasis has been placed on improving their fielding since then.
We lacked consistency. That has been our biggest drawback. Our fielding has been terrible too. We have dropped catches and consistency has been lacking.
If you take the last series, our batting was good, but our fielding was a drawback and in the last game which we had to win our batting let us down,” Tharanga explained.
He also said that Sri Lanka is likely to go with two frontline seamers with Mathews and Perera to support.
“I Hope it will be a good wicket. We will stick to two seamers. Angelo (Mathews) and Thisara (Perera) can bowl. May be we will have one spinner,” he added.
As for India, this will give them an opportunity test their bench strength as number of senior players including spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, and pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have been rested.
This opened doors for Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal while uncapped quick Shardul Thakur may also get a chance.
Isn’t it unprecedented for a politician to inspect a wicket being prepared for an international cricket match?
On Saturday country’s Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera joined Sri Lanka Cricket President Thilanga Sumathipala, who is also a ruling-coalition legislator in inspecting the wicket for Sunday’s opening ODI clash against India. Before that Minister Jayasekera held discussions with Sumathipala and Cricket Manager Asanka Gurusinha who is reportedly on his way out and also with players who were attending their final training sessions ahead of the opening clash.
THE SUNDAY TIMES