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Indian batsmen at sea against wily Akila Dananjaya

Dananjaya ran through the Indian middle order to record career best figures of 6/54

Akila Dananjaya Sri Lanka v India
Akila Dananjaya. (Photo Source: Twitter)

It took almost a month for the home side to produce a telling performance. Prior to the 2nd ODI, the Indians were all over Sri Lanka and whitewashed the hosts in the Test series. It was Akila Dananjaya who lit up the ODI series after many thought it would go down as a one sided contest.

Rohit-Dhawan depart in consecutive overs

When Rohit and Dhawan were larruping the Sri Lankan bowlers around, the chances of India losing the game were zilch. The introduction of mystery bowler Akila Dananjaya, who got married the night before, did not bother the Indian openers as Dhawan stepped out and smothered the deliveries which were pitched up. All seemed to be going well till both openers decided to employ the sweep shot. Rohit was the first victim, opting to sweep a full leg-spinner by Dananjaya and missing it altogether. The 30-year old frittered a review as the ball was crashing into the middle stump and the umpire’s decision was withheld. Dhawan, who hit a slap-happy 49, made the mistake of taking Siriwardana lightly. He swept to a ball which bounced a little more than expected and Mathews rushed from short fine leg to grab one of the better catches one would see in a long time. Sri Lanka were jubilant.

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That over which stunned Indians

There was no fret as India were still cruising despite losing their openers within a space of 6 balls. Chary looking Rahul walked out at No. 3 instead of Kohli and Jadhav took guard at 4. Both are fine players and you expect them to be slick in their approach. In the next 13 balls delivered by young Dananjaya, he picked 5 wickets including the wickets of Kohli, Rahul, Pandya, and Jadhav. It was madness as the Indian middle order fell like ninepins, one after the other. Sri Lankan team was ecstatic and the crowd, agog.

India is known to be one of the finest batting line-ups going around in world cricket, especially in ODIs. So what prompted them to lose wickets in a heap to a bowler who was playing in his 4th ODI? The ball wasn’t turning square neither did the batsmen were aiming for slogs. It was the craft of the 23-year old coupled with India’s reluctance of remaining positive despite the loss of wickets that brought the downfall of the Indians.

Dananjaya’s disguised googly

To Kohli’s own admission, Indians were unaware of Akila’s ability to bowl a well disguise googly bowled from a leg spinner’s release. Otherwise, the tweaker’s stock delivery is an off spinner but it was the googly which inflicted most of the damage. The first to fall was Kedar Jadhav, bamboozled by a googly which skidded on. To make matters worse, the right-hander went on the back foot to one he could have gone forward to. Jadhav’s dismissal is a familiar sight in club cricket, especially on dry wickets in the second innings on a hot day. The only difference was that Jadhav was unaware that the ball will come into him rather than going the other way.

Kohli was the next man to hit an early shower. After hitting the first ball he faced for a crisp boundary, it appeared that Kohli misread the length of the ball and drove one which wasn’t a pure half volley. Akila had started drifting the ball and with drift, he was also getting it to dip. The fact that Kohli lost his balance after finishing his attempted stroke tells you that he was beaten in the air by Akila. Probably, one must avoid playing that shot off their second ball of an innings but such has been the form of Kohli that he has been making the impossible look possible. But it wasn’t to be at the Pallekele International Stadium.

Rahul, who was making a return to the ODI fold, looked very tentative from ball one. After seeing his skipper and Jadhav getting castled, The 24-year old followed suit two balls later. Again, Akila got the ball to dip on Rahul, whose first thought was to drive the ball. The ball dipped at the last second which prompted Rahul to change his shot but it was a little too late in the day. In the end, he ended up neither defending nor driving and left a big gap between bat and pad for the ball to sneak through to the stumps.

Pandya walked out with a strut, looking to remain positive. Dananjaya might be wet behind the ears as far as international cricket is concerned but he knew that Pandya would come hard at him. He tempted him with a loopy googly which dipped on Pandya, who gave the bowler the charge and wanted to send it over long off for a six. Dickwella did the rest as the all-rounder was found short of his ground. Axar Patel was foxed by a non-turning off spinner and was adjudged leg before the wicket to give Dananjaya a 6-wicket haul.

Dhoni-Bhuvi save India the blushes

It took a special rearguard action by Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar to get India across the line. Both batted calmly against Dananjaya and preferred to stay on the back foot and playing as late as possible. Sri Lanka eventually faced another defeat in the series but it was a night to remember for Akila Dananjaya who had the mighty Indians in shambles with a majestic spell.

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