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Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar gate-crashed Akila Dhananjaya’s post marriage party as India pulled off a spectacular three-wicket win to go 2-0 up in the five-match ODI series.

Dhananjaya, who got married only Wednesday night at Moratuwa which is some three-hour drive from here, had left the Indian chase in total disarray with a sensational burst of six wickets during an unbroken spell of 8-0-39-6 but Dhoni, in the company of an equally determined Bhuvneshwar, dashed Lanka’s hopes of a rare win with an unbroken 100-run stand for the eighth wicket.

With a calm head and an ice-cool approach, Dhoni (45 n.o., 68b, 1x4) was the ideal man to shepherd this chase and Bhuvneshwar (53 n.o. 80b, 4x4, 1x6) played more than a complementary role to his senior as India reached their revised target of 231 off 47 overs with 2.4 overs to go following rains after Lanka’s innings. Lanka had scored 236/8 in 50 overs after being put into bat first.

Dhananjaya bamboozled the unsuspecting Indian batsmen with an assortment of googlies, leg-breaks and off-breaks as the visitors slipped to 131/7 after having seemingly sealed the match in their favour with another clinical display with the ball and an equally impressive batting from the openers. Rohit Sharma (50, 45b, 5x4, 3x6) began the chase by driving and flicking Lasith Malinga for a four and a six while Shikhar Dhawan (49, 50b, 6x4, 1x6) took some time to shift gears. Runs came at a torrent as India reached 100 in just 15 overs. Just when India’s win appeared a mere formality, all hell broke loose as Dhananjaya engineered a scarcely-believable collapse of the mighty Indian batting. 

The 23-year-old bowler triggered the procession by trapping Rohit in front. It was considered no more than an aberration and India promoted KL Rahul to No 3. Dhawan then fell to Milinda Siriwardana, Lanka’s hero with the bat, while attempting a slog sweep but India were still far from pressing the panic button as Kedar Jadhav walked in at No 4. The Maharashtra batsman was the first to go being bowled off a googly off the first ball of the 17th over. Finally, Virat Kohli strode out but met with the same fate as that of Jadhav, failing to read the wrong one. Two balls later Rahul had his stumps rearranged after playing outside the line and being bowled off his pads. The chaos in the Indian camp was only matched by the cacophony in the stands. 

From 109 for no loss, India now had slipped to 119 for five in a matter of 14 balls. Dhananajya, however, wasn’t done with his demolition act. He had Hardik Pandya stumped and had Axar Patel trapped in front as Dhoni was left with the onerous task of winning the match with the tail-enders. Dhananjaya in his previous three ODIs had taken five wickets but in this match alone he collected half a dozen scalps. He had figures of 4/47 in his last match for Lanka against Zimbabwe and why he wasn’t included in Dambulla is as mysterious as his deliveries. His delayed inclusion, however, turned out to be an inspirational change just as it was the case with Siriwardena while batting. 

Siriwardana, one of the three changes that Lanka made for this match, proved his worth by playing a responsible innings. Where his team-mates at the top and the middle-order were on a self-immolation spree, Siriwardana played the situation well. In near-perfect batting conditions, the left-hander gathered only 14 runs through boundaries but still maintained 100 per cent strike rate. Siriwardana found an able ally in Kapugedera who put his head and down and worked the Indian spinners around with ease. Without resorting to any fancy strokes, the two raised 91 runs in just 99 balls to salvage the innings that was rapidly slipping away from their grasp at 121 for five.


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