India vs Sri Lanka | MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar hold nerve to guide India to three-wicket victory

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India vs Sri Lanka | MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar hold nerve to guide India to three-wicket victory

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SportsCafe Desk


MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar weaved a 100-run eighth wicket partnership to steal the game away from Sri Lanka's grasp to register a three-wicket victory for India over the hosts. Earlier, the Indian bowlers restricted the Sri Lankan innings to 236 in 50 overs to contribute to the win.

Virat Kohli won the toss yet again and invited the hosts to bat first anticipating the pitch to get easier to bat on as lights come to play. The Indian side remained unchanged while the home team brought in Dushmantha Chameera, Akila Dananjaya, and Milinda Siriwardana for Thisara Perera, Wanidu Hasaranga, and Lakshan Sandakan trying to find out the perfect combination that will perturb the men in blue.

Indian bowlers find their footing after a shaky start

Indian bowlers started well keeping the Sri Lankan openers Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka quiet for the initial couple of overs. However, it all changed when Dickwella decided to break the shackles and started smashing Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah to every corner of the ground. But Dickwella’s explosive stint was brought to an end by Bumrah’s presence of mind who sent the Sri Lankan opener packing in the 8th over of the innings. Gunathilaka and Sri Lankan skipper Upul Tharanga were then burdened with the responsibility of taking the innings forward. Tharanga and Gunathilaka’s partnership seemed to be benefitting Sri Lanka as the two kept scoring at par. However, both the set batsmen squandered away their wickets in consecutive overs to swing the momentum in India’s favour for the first time in the match. The fall of wickets brought down the Sri Lankan innings run rate but the hosts were mainly focused on resurrecting the innings with the experienced pair of Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis at the crease. The partnership did not last long as Yuzvendra Chahal worked his magic with the ball dismissing Mendis cheaply as the hosts reached the halfway mark of their innings with 107/4 on the board.

Chamara Kapugedera and Milinda Siriwardana save the hosts from blushes

Mathews, like his partner, soon perished and it seemed as if Sri Lanka were headed to another below par score. The incoming Milinda Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera carried the hopes of the Lankan fans being the last specialist batsmen in the lineup. Siriwardana donned the role of the aggressor and did not let the Indian bowlers settle down scoring a run a ball to keep the scoreboard ticking while providing Kapugedera the space to settle his eye in the game. Hardik Pandya injured himself while bowling and Kohli was forced to use Kedar Jadhav. While Jadhav was one of the best bowlers in the first match against Sri Lanka, he failed to recreate the form and the Sri Lankan batsmen did the bulk of scoring at the part-time spinner’s cost which helped the hosts recover. Siriwardana deservingly reached his half-century and with five wickets in hand and the scoreboard reading 190/5 at the end of 42 overs the Sri Lankan batsmen were all set to break free. However, Jasprit Bumrah yet again justified his death bowler tag and dismissed both Kapugedera and Siriwardana to end a 91-run partnership and restrict the hosts to a modest 236/8.

Akila Dhananjaya single-handedly dismantles Indian batting lineup

After an hour and fifteen minutes of rain interruption, the game resumed and Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan walked out in the middle with the Indian innings reduced to 47 overs while the target was cut down to 231. Rohit cleared his intentions on the second delivery he faced smashing Lasith Malinga for a four through covers. Dhawan soon joined the party and together the duo tore apart the Lankan bowling and Malinga faced the brunt of the scintillating stroke play being smashed for 32 runs in 4 overs. Upul Tharanga was forced to bring Dushmantha Chameera into the attack but the move backfired when Rohit hit him for two consecutive sixes on the last two deliveries of the over to throw him off guard. The all-guns blazing start by Rohit and Dhawan took India’s score to 68 at the end of the first 10 overs. The duo carried the run-scoring rate and Rohit recorded his fastest half-century in 43 balls to put India in a commanding position in the match. However, Akila Dananjaya caught the Indian opener plumb in front of the wickets in the 16th over to find the hosts their first breakthrough. Milinda Siriwardana followed it up by dismissing Dhawan in the very next over starting the shift of momentum towards the home team. The match turned on its head when Dhananjaya bowled out KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, and Virat Kohli in the 18th over to reduce India to 119/5 from 111/0. Dananjaya did not stop there and sent Hardik Pandya back to the pavilion next to complete his five-wicket haul in a matter of just two overs. Losing a flurry of wickets in three overs put India on the back foot and their troubles deepened when Dananjaya dismissed Axar Patel and made the target of 231 an uphill task for the men in blue who reached the halfway mark of their innings with 136/7 on the board.

Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar hold their nerve to give India a 2-0 lead

While 95 runs in 138 balls were easily gettable India only had three wickets remaining to accomplish the task. MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were out in the middle and the former Indian skipper banked on quick singles and doubles to keep the scoreboard ticking. Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who did not have a good day with the ball, complemented Dhoni brilliantly by showing the confidence to face the Lankan bowlers and the two got the Indian innings to the 150-run mark in the 27th over. The duo then kept on rotating the strike and were helped in their initiative by Malinga and Vishwa Fernando who contributed to the Indian innings by bowling constant wides. India needed both perseverance and luck to go their way and it happened in the 34th over when Dhoni missed a delivery which went onto hit the stumps but the bails remained unmoved. Dhoni and Kumar kept inching towards the target and brought up their 50-run partnership while the hosts kept leaking singles and failed to pile up pressure on the men in blue. Bhuvneshwar Kumar then took charge and started playing the risky shots while Dhoni continued to anchor the Indian innings. Moreover, the duo kept their zen-like composure that eventually helped them scamper home with three wickets to spare.

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