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Rohit Sharma had indicated that the track used for India’s second Asia Cup Super Four match at the R Premadasa Stadium could assist the slow bowlers, and almost an hour later, a lesser known young Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage (5/40) and part-timer Charith Asalanka (4/18) utilized the assistance to full advantage to restrict the Indians to 213.
Electing to bat, India got off to a decent start with the openers Shubman Gill and Rohit continuing from where they left against Pakistan in the previous game, and put on 80 runs before the turnaround came once spin was introduced at the end of the mandatory powerplay.
Once skipper Dasun Shanaka handed the ball over to Wellalage, the youngster responded to the faith by knocking Shubman’s off-stump on his very first delivery.
What happened in the match?
The Colombo boy went on to make the Indian top order dance to his tunes. More importantly, he stifled the flow of runs, once he separated the openers with Shubman falling for 19 runs. Fresh from his fourth successive century at the stadium, Virat Kohli walked into the middle amid loud cheers but the former skipper also failed to decipher Wellalage’s probing lengths, and perished while trying to whip a short delivery square on the leg side.
Rohit, who by then had brought up a well deserved fifty off 44 balls, and also got to 10,000 ODI runs, was the next victim of the 20-year-old Wellalage, who got the ball to skid on straight while keeping low, leaving hardly any time for Rohit to get his bat down to defend, and crashed his leg stump.
In a span of 11 runs, India lost the top three which brought together the right-left duo of KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan. Entrusted with the repair work, the pair resurrected the innings with a healthy 63-run fourth wicket partnership to help India cross the 150-run mark by the 30th over.
Wellalage’s reintroduction into the bowling attack for a second spell piled in more agony for the Indians as he ended the flourishing partnership. Rahul, who looked in fluent touch against the spinners, slammed 39 off 44 balls, before a shorter ball from Wellalage cut short his stay in the middle.
Reduced to 154 for 4, India would have desperately hoped Ishan and new man Hardik Pandya to rescue them from the blushes, similar to what the pair had done against Pakistan in their Asia Cup opener in Kandy, but part-timer Charith Asalanka had other ideas.
Looking to clear the infield and break the shackles, Kishan tried to drive a tossed up delivery from the off-spinner, only to find Wallalege plucking it with a vertical leap to end his 61-ball laborious knock of 33. Wallalege then completed his maiden five-wicket haul on the final ball of his spell with the wicket of Hardik, caught behind by the keeper for an 18-ball 5.
Asalanka came back to torment India’s lower order with three quick wickets of Ravindra Jadeja (4), and then Jasprit Bumrah (5) and Kuldeep Yadav off consecutive deliveries to leave India reeling at 186/9 before a passing shower briefly halted the proceedings, giving the last pair of Axar Patel and Mohammed Siraj a breather with three overs remaining in the Indian innings.
On return, Axar (26) deposited Maheesh Theekshana to the cleaners to help India cross the 200-run mark before the spinner returned to bundle the visitors out for 213 in 49.1 overs.