DHARAMSALA: The susceptible technique of Indian batsmen in seamer-friendly conditions was thoroughly exposed as Sri Lanka comfortably beat India by seven wickets in the first ODI of the three-match series.
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The win also enabled Sri Lanka break the ignominy of 12 straight defeats in ODIs and also their first win against India in the current year after losing all international matches at home as well as the Test series.
Suranga Lakmal (4/13), Nuwan Pradeep (2/37) and Angelo Mathews (1/8) stifled the hosts with a fine display of seam and swing bowling in ideal conditions as Thisara Perera won a crucial toss.
Had former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni not stood tall amid ruins with a face-saving 65 off 87 balls, India at one point of time reduced to 29 for 7 and in danger of recording their lowest ever ODI score.
Their previous lowest was 54 against a formidable Sri Lanka in Sharjah back in 2000.
During Sri Lanka’s chase, Upul Tharanga blasted 49 off 46 balls with the help of 10 boundaries as the visitors overhauled the target with 29.2 overs to spare.
With Sri Lanka taking a 1-0 lead, India’s chances of grabbing the No 1 spot in the ICC ODI rankings is pretty minimal.
With regular skipper Virat Kohli taking a break due to his impending marriage, the Indian top-order did not cover itself in glory as the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik looked all at sea against moving delivery.
While most of the batsmen are not Test regulars, the performance does raise questions about Indian team’s ability to counter seam and swing.
It was second time on the current tour after the Eden Gardens Test that Indian team’s ability was put to test and they again came a cropper.
Put into bat, Indian batsmen looked clueless as Lakmal, Pradeep and Mathews with half of the Indian batting line-up was gone for just 16 runs and at one stage.
Left tottering at 29 for seven, Dhoni and Kuldeep Yadav (19) stitched 41 runs in 47 balls for the eighth wicket which went a long way in India crossing 100-run mark.
Dhoni clobbered 10 boundaries and two sixes in his crucial knock even as only two other Indian batsmen — Hardik Pandya (10) and Yadav — could reach double-digit figures.
He used his 300-plus ODI experience to counter the seam movement and bounce but didn’t get the kind of support that was required from the other end.
With an early start to the match, Lakmal, who completed his quota of 10 overs in a single spell, emerged as the wrecker-in-chief for Sri Lanka, returning with impressive figures of 10-4-13-4.
Such was the dominance of the Lankan seamers that India scored 11 for 3 in the powerplay overs, the lowest 10-over score in an ODI in the last five years, and second-lowest overall.
Sri Lanka put India on the backfoot right from the start with Mathews trapping opener Shikhar Dhawan in front of wicket in the last ball of his first over. The on-field umpire had given not out before a review by Sri Lankan team showed that the ball had hit him on line.
Lakmal produced some extra bounce with his away going deliveries and Rohit ended up poking at the ball to be back to the pavillion after the third umpire overturned another not out decision.
With India tottering at 2-2, Karthik joined debutant Iyer in the middle. After four maiden overs in the first five overs, Iyer finally hit the first four and also got off the mark when he guided a Mathews delivery to the mid-wicket boundary.Living dangerously on the other end, Karthik was then sent back to the hut by Lakmal as India ended the powerplay overs at 11 for 3.
Pradeep replaced Mathews even as Perera persisted with Lakmal and it worked as the pacer produced a superb delivery to induce a thick outside edge off Manish Pandey as India slumped to 16-4.
Two balls later, Pradeep uprooted Iyer’s stumps when the debutant inside-edged a delivery onto the stumps as the hosts lost half their side in the 14th over. Pandya then hit a couple of boundaries before giving an outside edge to Pradeep.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar could not stay for long and it was left to Dhoni and Yadav to avoid the ignominy of being bowled out for their lowest ODI total of 54 against the same opponent in 2000 at Sharjah.