Dhoni spoils Sri Lanka’s party: Man of the Match Dananjaya’s 6/54 wedding gift

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Bravo Akila Dananjaya, the hero in defeat in a contest that marked Sri Lanka’s best performance yet against India in the second ODI at Pallekelle yesterday.  The 23-year old lad swinging the match Sri Lanka’s way scourging through a hitherto steel like Indian top order was literally a singular upswing in Dananjaya’s impeccable 6 wickets for 54 runs. Significantly, here was a bridegroom of only a day ago who skipped his honeymoon with his bride Nethali Tekshini whom he married on Wednesday in Kandy, and joined the team the same evening. As the small made lad who took on a David versus Goliath like grip over the hefty made Indians when he reigned in with the high flying Rohit Sharma’s wicket trapping him LBW for 54 when India was on an unassailable 109 for no loss and set to make light of the modest revised Duckworth & Lewis 231-run victory target. Indeed, this Dananjaya wicket taking scripting reminiscent of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis’ incredible 6-wicket burst for 13 routing of India in an Asia Cup final where the only contrast was the lesser margin of runs Mendis conceded, certainly endeared the little man hailing from Panadura the ultimate ‘Man of the Match’ heartthrob that had the Indians too marveling at the feat.

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Incidentally, it was Mendis who was attesting witness at Dananjaya’s wedding. After prising out Sharma, the innocuous looking dark tanned off spinner set in motion 15 minutes of high drama as he destructed four more of the Indian top order  – Jadhav for 1,  the prize wicket of skipper Virat Kohli for 4 and Rahul for 4, and bogey man Pandya, who had been a mighty thorn to the Sri Lankan bowlers in the tour thus far for a duck as India declined to 121 for 6 losing the last 5 wickets for just 19 runs. That Dananjaya’s clean bowled Rahul, Jadhav and Kohli did illustrate unplayable mesmerism of the Indian aces in the pack as he brought on the smiles on al Sri Lankan fans from the gloom of India’s stranglehold. He proceeded to scalp his six sixth victim Patel for 6, and India had slumped to 131 for 6. That India had the eventual final say was courtesy former captain, the indomitable Mahendra Singh Dhoni who emerged from the shadows of obscurity since being relived of the captaincy in a tremendous rearguard unbeaten 45 off 68 balls containing just a solitary boundary in a batsman ship of his class discipline the situation demanded. The unfinished 100-run eighth wicket alliance with Kumar who made 53 saw India through in 44.2 overs.

It was a so close, but yet so far result for Sri Lanka whose batting once again choked before Milinda Siriwardena and Chamara Kapugedera paired in a productive 91-run partnership for the sixth wicket from 5 for 121. The left handed Siriwardena was a treat to watch displaying tremendous footwork in reaching up to the ball in his run a ball 58 inclusive of two boundaries. Kapugedera’s 61-ball 40 containing two boundaries was a fitting comeback from a first ball duck also against India in the Champions Trophy in England.

By Srian Obeyesekere

-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-