Supreme Sri Lanka level series
A supreme burst of accurate swing bowling from Thisara Perera set Sri Lanka on their way to a crushing nine-wicket victory over India in the second one-day international at Hambantota.
The tourists’ startling collapse to 139 all out did not seem remotely on the cards when Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag raced to 31 without loss after three overs, as Sri Lanka opening pair Lasith Malinga and debutant Isuru Udana struggled in blustery conditions.
Enter Perera, whose initial figures of 3-3-0-3 would have been one better in the wickets column had Angelo Mathews not put down Mahendra Singh Dhoni at slip.
The all-rounder atoned for his error by returning 3-14 from seven miserly overs, comparing favourably with Perera’s excellent 3-19 from eight.
Gambhir provided the solitary example of Indian resistance as the carnage unfolded around him and was last man out for 65, caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara off Malinga to leave 16.3 overs unused.
Not content with India suffering the humiliation of having to bowl nine overs before the scheduled lunch break, Sri Lanka set about their modest target in brutal fashion.
Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan capitalised on some wayward bowling from left-arm duo Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan, putting on an unbroken 64 by the time the interval arrived.
Indeed, Dilshan only fell with the finishing line in sight – caught behind off Ravichandran Ashwin, having hit five fours in a 49-ball 50.
Tharanga was 59 not out with eight boundaries by the time Dinesh Chandimal plundered four through third man to complete India’s misery and level the five-match series at one apiece.
Such serene progress would not have been possible without Perera turning the match on its head.
First he plunged forward impressively to take a return catch after Sehwag prodded loosely back towards the non-strikers end.
Dangerman Virat Kohli was his next victim, feathering a catch behind, and when Suresh Raina hung his bat outside off stump to play on, Perera had dumped the world champions into a hole from which they failed to emerge.