Quite a few times during Sri Lanka’s successful chase, which resulted in their two-wicket win over India, Virat Kohli would have missed a spinner. The Indian skipper would have rued not playing Amit Mishra and regretted choosing pace bowling all-rounder Stuart Binny as Varun Aaron’s replacement. Binny scored a four-ball duck and looked completely innocuous with his dibbly-dobblies. On a Fatullah Cricket Stadium pitch, where the ball gripped and stayed low, Mishra would have turned the ball and, maybe, the game in India’s favour.
The two frontline spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, did enough to pull things back for their team. Jadeja removed Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal in the first two balls of his fifth over to put the brakes on Sri Lanka’s run chase. The left-arm spinner accounted for Chaturanga de Silva in his final over to keep India in the hunt but after his spell, India dragged their feet and finally gave up. Jadeja finished with three for 30 in his 10 overs.
Ashwin, returning to his usual action and wearing half sleeves, bowled well, too. Forty-two runs in his 10 overs with the wickets of Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne, was a good effort. He also reached the landmark of 100 ODI wickets in the process. But, by the time he and Jadeja were finished, five more overs were to be played. With Kumar Sangakkara and Thisara Perera at the crease and no specialist spinner at hand for Kohli, Sri Lanka had little worry. Pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami did get a few toe-crushers in but still the runs leaked. Eventually, Sri Lanka won by two wickets, with four balls to spare, to top the group. They now have only Bangladesh and Afghanistan to play against and their place in the final looks almost certain. For India, they will have to win against Pakistan on Sunday to stay afloat in the competition.
Despite their fast bowlers’ lack of discipline, India would have managed to defend the total had they been sharp on the field. A total of five catches were dropped, and that meant Sri Lanka were let off the hook too often. A collision between Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan in the third over during Sri Lanka’s run chase allowed Thirimanne a reprieve. He was on one then. Four runs later, Jadeja dropped him at cover. Shami was the bowler on both occasions. Perera got a life when he was on 36. Another tough chance at deep mid-wicket off Binny and once again it was the team’s best fielder Jadeja who had failed to hold on to the catch. The two openers went on to add 80 runs for the first wicket.
But India were worst continued…