India vs Sri Lanka 2017, 1st ODI: Suranga Lakmal's stunning spell is SK Turning Point of the match
According to International Cricket Council's (ICC) official rankings, there are as many as 35 bowlers who are apparently better than Suranga Lakmal in the 50-over format. However, the 30-year old made a mockery of all preconceived notions by exposing India's much vaunted batting lineup on a seam-friendly surface in Dharamsala.
Even as the picturesque HPCA Stadium welcomed the two teams for the opening ODI of the 3-match series, Lakmal produced a befittingly stunning spell to set up Sri Lanka's first victory in white-ball cricket since July. From his full quota of ten overs, he delivered four maidens. More pertinently, he picked up four vital wickets while conceding just 13 runs.
Lakmal's astounding spell struck at the heart of India's batting fortunes. Upon losing the toss on a green-tinged track facilitating proper bounce, the hosts found themselves being reduced to 29/7. Despite MS Dhoni's valiant rearguard knock, they could only muster 112 from 38.2 overs. Sri Lanka overcame an early stutter to complete the straightforward chase.
Here's how Lakmal paved the way for the visitors' comprehensive seven-wicket triumph.
Lakmal shreds India's batting lineup
Angelo Mathews, resuming bowling duties after a considerable period of time, got Sri Lanka off to the perfect start by trapping Shikhar Dhawan in front during the second over of the match.
After creating palpable pressure by operating on a probing channel from his first couple of overs, Lakmal scalped his first wicket when he outclassed India's stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma with some extra bounce. The sharp and rising delivery reared up from length to kiss the shoulder of the blade. With the on-field umpire presumably not hearing the nick, the Decision Review System (DRS) came to Sri Lanka's rescue.
Buoyed by the early momentum, Thisara Perera's troops proceeded to subject the Indians to a stern examination of technique. Lakmal, in particular, challenged the home team's temperament by not giving them any loose deliveries to work with.
The seamer ended Dinesh Karthik's painstaking 18-ball stay for a duck. But the delivery to account for Manish Pandey would have given him more satisfaction. Lakmal honed in the perfect spot to leave the right-hander in a tangle. The lack of footwork resulted in an outside edge which was duly snapped up by Mathews at slip. Nuwan Pradeep aggravated India's woes by sending back Shreyas Iyer and Hardik Pandya in quick succession.
28/6 soon became 29/7 as Lakmal picked Bhuvneshwar Kumar's wicket with another brilliant delivery. Bowling unchanged right from the very first delivery of the game, he completed one of the finest ODI spells seen in recent times.
Sri Lanka cruise to much-needed triumph
Even as the entire batting lineup came a cropper, Dhoni displayed his experience by putting on a gallant fight. Shepherding the lower-order for yet another occasion in his stellar ODI career, the 36-year old was the only Indian to resist Sri Lanka's bowling onslaught.
From a treacherous situation, Dhoni singlehandedly spared India's blushes by leading them to a face-saving total. By the time Sri Lanka came out to bat, the pitch was beginning to ease up a little. Despite losing a couple of early wickets, the visitors retained their composure to surge to a much-needed win.
For the uninitiated, Lakmal's 4/13 might have been a scarcely believable spell. However, during the first Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the right-armer had already shown what he was capable of when presented with a conducive pitch. It had taken a seam masterclass from the seasoned campaigner to end Sri Lanka's 16-game limited-overs drought.