India crash to big defeat

Batsmen fumble against Lakmal's swing as Lanka post 7-wicket win

India crash to big defeat

Dharamsala: For once it was the ball, not the bat, which dictated a cricket contest in India. The wintry conditions here got the ball to swerve, and the Indian batsmen found themselves utterly helpless against it. The fiery spell of Suranga Lakmal set the tone and tenor of the match as Sri Lanka romped to a seven-wicket victory in the first of the three ODIs on Sunday.

On a helpful surface, Lakmal menacingly seamed and swung the ball both ways. In a brilliant unchanged spell of 10-4-13-4, he ripped through the Indian batting. The scorecard may credit just four wickets against his name, but Lakmal's impact was much deeper. For, he played on the mind of the Indian batsmen, numbing their senses and freezing their feet as most perished playing cross-batted shots or playing on.

Only Mahendra Singh Dhoni remained undaunted and negotiated the threat posed by Lakmal and company. With a gritty 65, he carried the Indian total to 112 in 38.2 overs. In reply, Sri Lanka stumbled initially but steadied to close the match with 176 balls to spare.

It could have been far worse for the World No 1 team, who at one time was stuttering at 29/7. Sri Lanka made perfect use of DRS. Shikhar Dhawan played across to Angelo Mathews and umpire Simon Fry ignored the appeal for lbw. The Lankans promptly went upstairs and the reviews discovered the ball would have hit the top of middle stump. India had lost a wicket without opening their account.

Three overs later, Lakmal lured Rohit Sharma to nibble at a rising delivery. Umpire Anil Chaudhary rejected the appeal for caught behind and Sri Lanka again went for a review. The snicko detected a faint touch. Rohit's was a despondent and forgettable trudge to the dressing room on debut as captain.

Dinesh Karthik followed his captain four overs later and India were 11/3 – the lowest 10-over score in an ODI between two full members in the last five years. With the absence of Virat Kohli, the Indian decline was swift. Manish Pandey, with no feet movement, tried to play Lakmal's good length delivery across only to find a thick edge. Shreyas Iyer, handed his ODI cap by Dhoni in the morning, was troubled by Nuwan Pradeep before he played on to an unwise square-cut.

The assured presence of Dhoni, who arrived to a tumultuous welcome from a packed crowd, and Hardik Pandya offered hope. Pandya got the spectators on their feet when he stroked two crisp boundaries but then he, too, decided to shuffle across to be caught at slips.  

India soon stared at the possibility of going below their lowest total of 54 that had also come against Sri Lanka in 2000 at Sharjah. But Dhoni skillfully batted with the lower order. With Kuldeep Yadav, he stitched a 41-run eighth-wicket partnership to save India further embarrassment. He later dealt only in boundaries, and when he departed as the last wicket, defeat loomed large for the Indians.

The hosts did well to reduce Sri Lanka to 19/2, and it could have been three down had Jasprit Bumrah, who snared Upul Tharanga, not overstepped. Tharanga went on to make 49, before Nirsoshan Dickwella and Mathews lent the finishing touches. It meant a lot for Sri Lanka who had come into the series with 12 consecutive defeats in ODIs. In chilly environs, the visitors have surely warmed up the series.

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