Dhawan, spinners put India 1-0 up

Will Sri Lanka challenge India’s dominance was the question being asked before the match started. Sadly for the hosts, that dream remains far from reality. With both bat and ball, India dominated the opening ODI in Dambulla on Sunday (August 20) to clinch a victory by nine wickets. Shikhar Dhawan’s glorious run of form continued as he got his 11th ODI ton, sharing a 197-run stand with Virat Kohli (82*) as the duo made light work of the chase.

A big part in the win also came through India’s spinners who restricted Sri Lanka for a small total despite a strong start.

After being put in to bat, Sri Lanka raised hopes of a challenge through their top three. But a stunning batting collapse saw them go from 139/1 to 216 all out as India’s spinners – led by Axar Patel (3/34) and Kedar Jadhav (2/26) – fashioned a strong comeback. Sri Lanka had themselves to blame for a string of poor shots, and overall poor cricket, to squander the start given by the top order.

Niroshan Dickwella (64) and Danushka Gunathilaka (35) put on a 74-run opening stand to defy India in the first half of the innings. The duo were compelled to take a few risks to get their boundaries but kept pulling them off to put India under pressure. It continued even after Gunathilaka fell mistiming a reverse sweep against Chahal. With Kusal Mendis for company, Dickwella was able to get Sri Lanka’s run-rate up despite the wicket. Mendis took on Chahal’s leg-spin even carting him for three boundaries in the 20th over of the innings as Sri Lanka raced to 117/1, and setting their sights of a strong finish to mount on this platform.

But things went on a downward curve after that over as Kohli turned to his finger spinners, Axar and Jadhav, in a bid for some change. Jadhav’s assorted slow bowling coupled with Patel’s miserly lines and lengths not only put the brakes on Sri Lanka’s scoring rate but caused a few dents as well. The next eight overs saw Sri Lanka lose two wickets and the run-rate dip from 5.85 to 4.35. Clever changes of pace accounted for the wickets of Dickwella, who missed a sweep, and Mendis, who ended up losing his stumps after yorking himself. These twin blows also heralded a procession of wickets as Sri Lanka lost the plot.

Batsman after batsman fell to unforced errors whether it was Upul Tharanga hitting a full toss to long on or Chamara Kapugedera going for a non-existent single and being run out by Kohli’s underarm throw. To make matters worse, Jasprit Bumrah’s pace through the air got the better of Thisara Perera while Wanindu Hasaranga played a forgettable shot to get caught at mid on. The middle order collapse saw Mathews left as the last standing batsman in a bid to give Sri Lanka a respectable total.

He hung around to remain unbeaten on 36 but the wickets never stopped falling at the other end as Sri Lanka ended with a below-par total on a pitch that held no mysteries.

That fact was only driven home by India’s batting performance in the second innings where the lone wicket came in the form of an unfortunate run-out when Rohit Sharma lost his bat going for a run and was out despite crossing the crease but not landing his foot. That setback on 23, however, did little to ruffle India’s charge.

Dhawan, once again on this tour, set the tone early by getting his boundaries in style. Drives, pulls and lofts were played with such ease and consistency that Sri Lanka quickly ran out of ideas to contain him. His unbeaten 132 eventually contained 20 fours and three sixes, while overshadowing Kohli’s 70-ball knock that was studded with boundaries as well. There was hardly a chance created by Sri Lanka’s bowlers but Dhawan was dropped twice (on 87 and 120) going for attacking shots.

The flurry of boundaries unleashed by Kohli and Dhawan while knocking off the last forty runs of the chase only underlined the complete dominance of India as they went 1-0 up in the five-match series.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 216 all out (Niroshan Dickwella 64; Axar Patel 3/34) in 43.2 overs lost to India 220/1 in 28.5 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 132*, Virat Kohli 82*) by nine wickets

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