Fernando anchored the chase superbly with a 76-run knock.

Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa
Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

Sri Lanka have pulled one back on India in the three-match ODI series. They chased down 227 runs rather comfortably and despite losing a few wickets at the fag end, Avishka Fernando’s calm knock made sure that they were always ahead in the chase. Indian bowlers fought hard till the end but wickets came a little too late for them as they were handed their first defeat of the tour.

Earlier, a new-look India opted to bat first after handing debuts to as many as five players. Their opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan remained same though. The visitors didn’t get off to an expected start with their skipper edging one behind to the keeper on 13. Sanju Samson walked out to bat with full confidence then in his first innings in the format.

He and Shaw batted brilliantly to keep up the tempo and stitched 74 runs together for the second wicket. The latter had finally battled his demons against the spinners and raced his way to 49. But in a bid to tuck the ball to the leg-side to get to his fifty, he was caught plumb in front off Dasun Shanaka. Samson, at the other end, also looked fluent, much like he has looked all his career.

But even he couldn’t cross the 50-run mark. Praveen Jayawickrama dismissed Samson for 46 and at 118/3, things were again in the balance. Suryakumar Yadav once again took his batting up a notch with yet another good show. Manish Pandey was expected to anchor the innings but Praveen bluffed him with a good delivery. Pandey’s ODI series ended with only 74 runs in three innings putting grave question marks over his career.

At the other end, Surya scored 40 but once again, he couldn’t kick on and get a big score. There was a rain break in the middle and it worked for Sri Lanka. The visitors collapsed against the spinner Akila Dananjaya and other bowlers as they were reduced to 195/8 from 157/3 in a space of eight overs.

It was only due to Rahul Chahar and Navdeep Saini then that India managed to reach 225 as they batted sensibly rotating the strike for  around 10 overs. India were eventually bowled out and thanks to the collapse, they couldn’t bat out the whole quota of the reduced 47 overs. The target for the hosts was adjusted to 227 according to DLS method.

Avishka guides Sri Lanka in the chase

The 227-run target was not much but with Sri Lanka not winning many matches of late, they were certainly under pressure. Bu the nerves eased down soon with Avishka Fernando batting fluently. India introduced spin in the fifth over itself with no swing for the new ball bowlers and the move paid dividends soon. Krishnappa Gowtham struck in his very first over to send back Minod Bhanuka.

But that didn’t deter Avishka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa finally delivered to the promise shown in the domestic circuit. Both of them took toll of some poor bowling from the inexperienced Indian line-up. The likes of Navdeep Saini, Gowtham and Rahul Chahar among others were milked for some easy runs.

The duo stitched 109 runs for the third wicket stand and it all looked hunky dory for them at one stage. Both Avishka and Bhanuka got to their respective half-centuries. The latter, however, got out for 65 off 56 balls to hand Chetan Sakariya his maiden international wicket. The debutant then sniffed out Dhananjaya de Silva with a superb variation delivery to make thins interesting.

However, Fernando kept going strong and rode his luck on the way too with Pandey dropping him when on 68. But India kept fighting and that brought two more quick wickets with Hardik Pandya dismissing Charith Asalanka and Rahul Chahar getting better of Shanaka.

Sri Lanka looked nervous with more than 30 runs yet to win. However, the team didn’t slip up this time from the winning position. Fernando played a steely knock of 76 runs but he got out with the team needing only 13 runs and the lower-order did the job for them to win by four wickets.

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