Sri Lanka refreshingly demonstrated what a talented side with a fighting spirit can achieve even against tremendous odds. Straddling on Kasun Rajitha’s penetrating overs with the new ball, it seized a wonderful opportunity to inflict a surprise defeat on India in the first match of the three-match Twenty20 series at the Maharashtra Cricket Association International Stadium here on Tuesday.
The visitor lost its openers midway through the fifth over, but skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara put on the highest partnership of the match and ensured that their team will fly to Ranchi with 1-0 lead. Brought after 11 overs, off-spinner R. Ashwin captured two wickets, with Suresh Raina plucking a full-blooded sweep by Dasun Shanaka when all hopes had actually vanished for the home team.
The visitor may have scored a team win, but without doubt Rajitha was the toast of the match. Fast bowlers come in different physical attributes, generally show their mettle by their ability to generate speed and extract alarming bounce and directed towards the body and on occasions make the batsmen quiver in their boots.
The strapping Rajitha, a tyro certainly in international cricket, can claim to have made the Indian batsmen nervous wrecks in his first over and spell itself. He made such a terrific impact that India could muster only a paltry 101, that too thanks to the individual brilliance of Ashwin, who contributed to the rearguard with Ashish Nehra.
Playing his first match for Sri Lanka, the Matara-born 22-year-old looked every inch a speed merchant in his opening burst of three overs when he scalped the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan, and straightway brought India to its knees. Rajitha’s incisive and remarkable first over in which he made Rohit drive into the hands of Dushmantha Chameeera at mid-off and then induced a leading edge from Rahane, promoted to No. 3 in the absence of Virat Kohli, brought to the fore the capabilities of a young fast bowler who has been a find in the Twenty20 domestic cricket at home and more significantly lifted the team spirit.
Whether the surface with a fair grass cover right across the length of the pitch, as prepared by former State fast bowler Pandurang Salgaonkar, had anything to do with the initial success of Rajitha and later of medium-pacer Dasun Shanaka, is a matter of conjecture, but the home team appeared to have wilted under extreme pressure brought upon by Rajitha, who completed his opening spell of three overs with the wicket of Dhawan, playing a horrendous shot in the circumstances and offering a catch to Danushka Gunathilake at third man.
The fielder had earlier let off Suresh Raina in the same position. It was a day India failed to see the potential in Rajitha, Shanaka and also Dhushmantha Chameera, who accounted for the wicket of Yuvraj Singh, after being hit on the body and helmet. The situation called for intelligent and smart batting from Dhawan and Raina, but both decided to take the Sri Lankan seamers head on and gifted their wickets. By the 10th over, India was in doldrums losing the wicket of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. If Rajitha startled and shocked the Indian top order, Shanaka broke the back with a three-wicket spell.
Coming at No. 9, Ashwin stemmed the rot by actually playing like a technically well-equipped batsman. His partnership with Nehra for 28 runs took India to 100 after which Jasprit Bumrah’s exit following a misfield brought a close to the first session, with seven balls going waste. Rajitha and Shanaka may have captured six wickets together, but the Indian batsmen did not show courage and gumption in order to offer a fitting riposte. It was an inept display by Dhoni’s team.
India: Rohit Sharma c Chameera b Rajitha 0 (2b), Shikhar Dhawan c Gunathilaka b Rajitha 9 (13b, 1 x 6), Ajinkya Rahane c Chandimal b Rajitha 4 (4b, 1 x 4), Suresh Raina b Shanaka 20 (20b, 1 x 4, 1 x6), Yuvraj Singh c & b Chameera 10 (14b, 1 x 6), M.S.Dhoni c Dickwella b Shanaka 2 (2b), Hardik Pandya lbw b Shanaka 2 (6b), Ravindra Jadeja lbw b Senanayake 6 (9b), Ravichandran Ashwin not out 31 (24b, 5 x 4s), Ashish Nehra c Siriwardena b Chameera 6 (19b), Jasprit Bumrah run out (Chandimal) 0 (1b), Extras (b-1, lb-2,w-8) 11, Total (in 18.5 overs) 101
Fall of wkts: 0-1 (Sharma), 5-2 (Rahane), 32-3 (Dhawan), 49-4 (Raina). 51-5 (Dhoni), 53-6 (Yuvraj Singh) , 58-7 (Pandya), 72-8 (Jadeja), 100-9 (Nehra)
Sri Lanka bowling: Kasun Rajitha 4-0-29-3, Thisara Perera 3-1-10-0, Sachithra Senanayake 3-0-18-1, Dushmantha Chameera 3.5-0-14-2, Dasun Shanaka 3-0-16-3, Seekuge Prasanna 2-0-11-0
Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella c Dhawan b Nehra 4 (3b, 1 x 4), Danushka Gunathilake c Dhawan b Nehra 9 (18b), Dinesh Chandimal 35 (35b, 1 x 4, 2 x 6s),Chamara Kapugedara lbw b Ashwin 25 (26b, 4 x 4s), Milinda Siriwardena not out 21 (14b, 2 x 4s, 1 x 6), Dasun Shanaka c Raina b Ashwin 3 (8b), Seekuge Prasanna not out 3 (4b) Extras (lb-3,w-2) 5, Total (for 5 wkts in 18 overs) 105
Fall of wkts: 1-4 (Dickwella), 2-23 (Gunathilake), 3-62 (Kapugedara), 4-84 (Chandimal), 5-91 (Shanaka)
India bowling: Ashish Nehra 3-0-21-2, Jasprit Bumrah 4-1-19-0,Ravindra Jadeja 3-0-18-0, Hardik Pandya 3-0-18-0, Ashwin 3-0-13-2, Suresh Raina 2-0-13-1.