Pallekele: The Indians riding on a scintillating hundred from opener Rohit Sharma and a solid unbeaten 67* from former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni comfortably chased down the paltry Sri Lankan total of 217 by six wickets in Pallekele on Sunday and have hence won the series 3-0 with two games yet to be played.
Sharma, who had scored a fifty in the last match spent some more time at the crease and absorbed the pressure exerted by the Sri Lankan bowlers after the Indians were reduced to 61/4 in just 15.1 overs with names like Shikhar Dhawan (5), Virat Kohli (3), Kedar Jadhav (0) and KL Rahul (17) already back in the hut. He joined forced with Dhoni, who had already played a match-winning innings in the last match to help India cruise to a comfortable win at the end.
Veteran paceman Lasith Malinga provided the initial breakthrough as he sent back the in-form Shikhar Dhawan with just nine runs on the board. Kohli soon followed suit as left-arm speedster Vishwa Fernando had him caught by fellow pacer Dushmantha Chameera. Akila Dananjaya, the man of the match from the last game once again proved to be threat with his mystery spin but the ever cool Dhoni and Rohit Sharma and stitched together an unbeaten 157-run stand that characterised some quick running between the wickets and some occasional big hits. Sharma ended on an unbeaten 124, notching up his 12th ODI ton and highest score in Sri Lanka so far.
Dhoni’s patient yet crucial knock proved that why he is one of India’s best bets for a proper middle-order batsman as he not only equalled the likes of Shaun Pollock and Chaminda Vaas in terms of the most number of not-outs (72) but also became India’s fourth highest run-getter in ODI going past former skipper Mohammad Azharuddin’s tally of 9378 runs.
Although the match was momentarily stopped due to the crowd throwing in plastic bottles as a sign of frustration due to the continuous poor performances by the local team, India clinched the win and the series as well.
Earlier winning the toss, Sri Lankan stand-in skipper Chamara Kapugedara decided to bat first but Jasprit Bumrah have the Indians a flying start as he nailed in one toe-crusher to trap wicketkeeper batsman Niroshan Dickwella (13) in front of the wicket. He also dismissed Kusal Mendis (1) courtesy a splendid catch by Rohit Sharma and things looked gloomy with the bat for the hosts once again.
But comeback men- Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne put up a 72-run stand that looked to revive the innings. Chandimal, however suffered a thumb injury after he was hit by a Hardik Pandya delivery and continued in pain before the same bowler ended his stay at the crease for 36. What’s worse for the Sri Lankans is that the Test captain has been ruled out of the remainder of the matches.
Thirimanne nonetheless, continued to build his innings with the singles and twos and hitting the occasional boundary. He anchored the Sri Lankan batting innings with 80 runs on his return to the the from 105 balls but the other batsmen failed to deliver as ‘Man of the Match’ Jasprit Bumrah registered a magnificent five wicket haul (5/27) to restrict the islanders to just 217/9.
Sri Lanka 217/9 ( Lahiru Thirimanne 80, Dinesh Chandimal 36; Jasprit Bumrah 5/27) lost to India 218/4 (Rohit Sharma 124 n.o, Mahendra Singh Dhoni 67 n.o ; Akila Dananjaya 2/38) by 6 wickets.