South Africa are confident Keshav Maharaj can provide inspiring stand-in leadership as the spinner marks his T20I debut by captaining the Proteas against Sri Lanka.

Almost five years have passed since Maharaj made his Test bow against Australia, while his first ODI appearance came in 2017 on the tour of England.

It is high time 31-year-old Maharaj was seen in the shortest format, and he enters with the added responsibility of leading the team, having also skippered the tourists in the second and third ODIs against Sri Lanka.

With regular captain Temba Bavuma sidelined by a fractured thumb, Maharaj, who was named ahead of George Linde in South Africa's T20 World Cup squad on Thursday, gets his chance to show what he can do in the quick-fire game.

South Africa sealed a 3-2 T20I series win over West Indies in July, and they sit fifth in the ICC team rankings, four places above the Sri Lanka side they will face in three matches, to be played in Colombo on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday.

Having lost 2-1 to Sri Lanka in the ODIs, South Africa are seeking succour. Convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang described Maharaj on Thursday as "an excellent leader", whose "exemplary captaincy" can be a steadying short-term influence.

Speaking this week, Maharaj said of his temporary new duty: "It was overwhelming at the start. I was actually nervous before I got to the field in my first game but I really enjoyed being the captain of the national team.

"Unfortunately I could not help the team cross the line in the third and final match [in the ODIs] but I thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy."

He added, according to Times Live: "I feel captaincy gives me a bit of responsibility, it keeps me calmer and it gives me a different outlook of the game."

The T20 World Cup will take place in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and by edging cup holders West Indies in the run-up, South Africa believe they are in good shape.

That view could be coloured by what happens in the coming days, but batsman David Miller sees things from a positive perspective.

Miller said, quoted on iol.co.za, "What we've been through in the last couple of months, I believe, has been a huge stepping stone in our T20 campaign. We took a lot of confidence from beating the West Indies.

"We still need to work out different combinations. In T20 you need to be flexible. That is something that we will get right. There have been areas in the last few months in the fielding department where we can certainly improve. We are aware of it."

 

HASARANGA TEST FOR PROTEAS

Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga marked his 24th birthday in grand style on his last T20I appearance, taking staggering figures of 4-9 against India in Colombo on July 20 to set up his team for a series-winning victory. It is clear he represents a big threat to South Africa, with his strike rate in T20I power play this year standing at six, the best rate among all bowlers to have a delivered a minimum of 20 balls.

Sri Lanka were beaten 3-0 by the Proteas the last time these teams met in a T20I series. That was in South Africa in March 2019, with the hosts winning the opening match on a one-over eliminator after the contest finished tied.

TOURISTS WELCOME BACK RESTED STARS

South Africa allowed Quinton de Kock, Miller and Lungi Ngidi to sit out the ODI series. De Kock and Miller return for the upcoming three games, crunch match practice now the World Cup countdown is on.

De Kock needs just two more dismissals to record the second most by a wicketkeeper in men's T20I matches. He currently has 62 dismissals and only has MS Dhoni (91) and Denesh Ramdin (63) above him.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Sri Lanka have won their last two men’s T20I matches at home, the last time they registered more consecutive wins in this format at home was in 2012 (4 matches).

– South Africa have won their last four men's T20I matches on the road. The last time they registered more such wins in a row was in 2009 (5 matches).

– Sri Lanka have a chance to register a hat-trick of men’s T20I wins for the first time at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. They won their last two matches at this venue against India (July 28 and 29). They have one win and a loss against South Africa at this venue.

– Sri Lanka have a batting strike rate of 114 in men’s T20I since the beginning of 2020, the poorest among all Test-playing nations in this format; South Africa have a strike rate of 142, the fourth best during this period.

– South Africa have a catch success percentage of 75 per cent in men’s T20I since the beginning of 2020, the poorest rate among Test playing nations. They have dropped 35 of the 140 chances presented to them.

Debutant Maheesh Theekshana produced a stunning performance with the ball to inspire Sri Lanka to a series-clinching ODI win over South Africa.

An unconvincing batting display saw Sri Lanka post a slightly disappointing total of 203-9 after the hosts won the toss for the third and final match.

However, that modest target proved well beyond the tourists, who were undone by Theekshana's off-spin in an innings interrupted by rain.

Theekshana took 4-37 as the Proteas were skittled for 125, ensuring Sri Lanka secured a 78-run victory in style.

Charith Asalanka, the top run-scorer in the series, was the sole Sri Lanka player to excel with the bat, scoring 47 off 71 deliveries.

Dhananjaya de Silva (31) did threaten to post a big score yet he failed to build on his encouraging start and Dushmantha Chameera added a quick 29 off 39 balls.

But the success of the South Africa spinners, with captain Keshav Maharaj taking 3-38 and George Linde (2-32) and Tabraiz Shamsi (2-31) also excelling, provided clear encouragement for Theekshana and the Sri Lanka attack.

They wasted no time in making inroads, reducing South Africa to 19-3 inside five overs. Janneman Malan (18) and Heinrich Klaasen (22) steadied the ship with a stand of 36 but Theekshana got Malan caught in the slips and then trapped Klaasen lbw either side of Wiaan Mulder (2) being bowled by Wanindu Hasaranga (2-32).

Linde (18) and Andile Phehlukwayo (17) mounted something of a recovery from 54-6, but it did not last, and it was Theekshana who had the final say when he drew an edge from Maharaj.

Theek tough

The selection of Theekshana proved inspirational and captain Dasun Shanaka heaped praise on the 21-year-old at the post-match presentation.

"Theekshana was our trump card," said the skipper. "He's more of a T20 bowler but I used him wisely in this match. He's a real prospect going forward."

Chameera's all-round impact

Theekshana, however, was not the man of the match. That honour went to Chameera, who along with Klaasen struck the most fours in a low-scoring contest, finding the rope three times.

He followed up his effort with the bat by taking 2-16, with the early dismissals of Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen putting South Africa in a hole they never looked like escaping.

Janneman Malan's 121 and a Tabraiz Shamsi five-for led South Africa to a 67-run win by DLS in a rain-affected second ODI against Sri Lanka, levelling the three-match series in Colombo.

A downpour delayed the start and limited the contest to 47 overs, which became 41 in the second innings after more rain – Sri Lanka's target of 284 trimmed to 265.

But the Proteas were never in trouble. Despite missing injured captain Temba Bavuma and the rested Quinton de Kock, stand-in skipper Keshav Maharaj was quickly rewarded for his decision to bat first.

Opener Malan stuck around for three hours and 17 minutes, during which time he enjoyed stands of 96 for the second wicket with Reeza Hendricks (51) and 86 for the fourth with Heinrich Klaasen (43).

Dushmantha Chameera belatedly got Klaasen and Malan from consecutive deliveries, but by that point there were just 12 balls remaining, with South Africa finishing on 283-6.

Given Avishka Fernando had been the match-winner for Sri Lanka in the series opener, making at least 50 in a third consecutive ODI, it quickly became clear this would not be their day when he went early for eight to a much-improved Kagiso Rabada (2-16).

Charith Asalanka starred alongside Avishka in the previous match and only he truly threatened to make a fight of the chase, scoring 77 off 69 – including three sixes – either side of the rain delay.

Chamika Karunaratne's late flurry (36 off 23, two sixes) was then ended by Maharaj, and Shamsi tidied up the tail for career-best figures of 5-49, leaving Sri Lanka well short, all out for 197.

Patient approach pays off

Sri Lanka's pace bowling attack has been effective in preventing boundaries this year, giving up just 44 per cent of their total runs conceded through fours and sixes ahead of this match – the second-lowest proportion among Test-playing nations in 2021, behind Bangladesh (42 per cent). But this did not slow Malan, who hit only 10 of the 135 balls he faced to the boundary but ran 65 singles, perhaps explaining his struggles with cramp.

Rabada back to his best

A poor showing from the Proteas' premier fast bowler in the first ODI saw him give up 66 runs, tied for the third-most in his career in this format. Yet Rabada was back on song from the outset on Saturday. He took two wickets in a stunning fifth over, conceding only a single run and prompting a further lbw review.

Rabada's contribution was overshadowed by Shamsi's efforts, but the Proteas need their main man to fire, meaning an ankle sprain in the field provides some concern.

South Africa one-day captain Temba Bavuma has been ruled out for the remainder of the Proteas' ODI series in Sri Lanka with a fractured thumb.

The skipper suffered the freak injury during Wednesday's first ODI that, inspired by centurion Avishka Fernando, the hosts won by 14 runs.

Bavuma was inadvertently struck from a fielder's throw-in during the 26th over at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium.

Persistent discomfort saw him retire hurt two overs later, with scans later revealing a fracture.

Bavuma will return to South Africa for further treatment, from which his recovery time will be determined.

Keshav Maharaj will deputise as captain for the second ODI of the three-match series on Saturday.

 

Avishka Fernando's third ODI century set Sri Lanka on course for a 14-run win in the opener of their three-match series against South Africa.

The Proteas were always fighting a losing battle in Colombo after allowing Sri Lanka to make 300-9 – their highest total in 50-over cricket in 2021.

Avishka (118) was the star with the bat, putting on 79 in a partnership with Dhananjaya de Silva (44) that was disrupted briefly by a rain delay, with better to come as he was joined in the middle by Charith Asalanka (72).

That stand of 97 for the fourth wicket put Sri Lanka in command, as a bowling attack led by Kagiso Rabada (2-66) struggled to keep them in check.

South Africa were no more than steady in reply and keenly felt the dismissal of Aiden Markram to an outstanding Wanindu Hasaranga catch after 96 runs, including four sixes.

Captain Temba Bavuma had already retired hurt after taking a blow to his hand, and Rassie van der Dussen's departure preceded some superb death bowling to see Sri Lanka comfortably over the line – the Proteas short of their target on 286-6.

Profitable partnership

With the exception of Keshav Maharaj, who gave up 30 runs in 10 overs for his most economical ODI return, South Africa's bowlers were really poor. But Avishka and Asalanka still had to capitalise and did exactly that with a vital partnership that scored at 8.19 an over.

Denied at the death

South Africa required 41 off 25 when Van der Dussen departed, yet they mustered only two more boundaries – both fours from Rabada in the final over when the chase was up. Hasaranga started well and finished strongly, too, slowing Heinrich Klaasen in giving up just three from the 47th over.

South Africa will look to put more off-field disruption behind them when they start a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka on Thursday.

The Proteas were rocked by the resignation of assistant coach Enoch Nkwe last week as they prepared to travel to Sri Lanka.

Nkwe's decision to quit was put down to personal ambitions and his concerns about the functioning and culture of the team environment.

Proteas white-ball captain Temba Bavuma is eager to meet Nkwe on his return from Sri Lanka to discuss his reasons for stepping down.

"I haven't had an opportunity to have a formal discussion with Enoch but probably when I get back to South Africa, I'd like to sit down with him and maybe unpack it a bit," Bavuma said.

"I'd like to hear it from him. He is the subject here, at the end of the day. If there is merit [to Nkwe's concerns], as a member of the team, it's something I will take on board and have a discussion amongst the team."

Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock has been rested for the ODI series, while paceman Lungi Ngidi misses out for personal reasons and batsman David Miller (hamstring) is also absent.

All-rounder Dwaine Pretorius is set to return at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in a week that saw legendary South Africa paceman Dale Steyn announce his retirement.

Dinesh Chandimal makes his Sri Lanka return after a five-month absence, with Dasun Shanaka captaining the side in a series that forms part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League.

SHANAKA BULLISH AFTER INDIA TRIUMPH

Sri Lanka came from behind to secure a 2-1 Twenty20 series win over India in July.

Skipper Shanaka is eager to build on that triumph at the expense of the Proteas on home soil, with Lahiru Madushanka, Maheesh Theekshana, and Pulina Tharanga in contention to make their debuts.

Shanaka said: "I think we have the winning momentum [following two T20I wins against India], and feel that if our spinners can get a lot of wickets, we should be able to win. We have a lot of advantages in this series.

"We have a lot of options on the spin front. We've got Wanindu Hasaranga, Akila Dananjaya, Maheesh Theekshana, Ramesh Mendis (offspin), Praveen Jayawickrama and other options. They're all in a good rhythm. I'm looking to play three spinners in the team. South Africa always have a good pace attack. But I think I can guarantee that we have the better spin-bowling contingent at the moment. I trust our team's strength."

 

HENDRICKS HOPING TO STRIKE BLOWS AFTER TAKING ONE

There was a scare for South Africa when Beuran Hendricks was struck above the eye by a drive from Pretorius during a practice session.

The seamer passed a concussion test and is determined to make his mark in Sri Lanka.

He said: "It's a dream to play for my country, I'm very proud to play for my country, and that's the patience for me. I don't take anything for granted when I'm at this level. I make sure that I'm fully focused and fully energised when I'm at this level.

"What goes on behind the scenes is out of my control. I've just got to make sure that I've prepared well, when I come on tour I'm fully fit, I need to be ahead of certain guys. Those are the things that run through my mind when I'm in this set-up. Try to make sure that I stay patient."
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The last time South Africa toured Sri Lanka for a white-ball series was in 2018, when the tourists won a five-match ODI series 3-2. 
- The Proteas have won each of their past four multi-game bilateral ODI series against Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lanka have scored 40 per cent of their runs from boundaries in ODIs this year. Only Bangladesh have a lower rate (37%).
- South Africa have averaged a boundary every 8.8 balls in the 50-over format since the start of 2021. Only England and India have a better rate in this time (8.1).

Sri Lanka trio Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have been banned from international cricket for a year after breaching the team's bio-secure bubble in England.

The players were in Durham preparing for the first of three ODIs against the world champions last month when they left the team hotel to visit the city centre despite strict COVID-19-related rules.

Batsmen Mendis and Gunathilaka and wicketkeeper-batsman Dickwella were sent home and have now been hit with strong sanctions.

The executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket took into account recommendation made by an independent panel of inquiry before handing down a 12-month ban from playing at international level and a six-month domestic suspension.

They were also given a further one-year ban, which is suspended for a two-year period.

Mendis, Dickwella and Gunathilaka have been fined 10million Sri Lanka Rupees (around £36,000) for their indiscretion.

 

Sri Lanka claimed a first ever T20I series victory over India as they beat their depleted opponents by seven wickets in the third and final match.

India were undefeated in the previous four series between the nations, yet a COVID-19 outbreak – nine players were put into isolation following a positive test for Krunal Pandya – had further decimated their ranks, considering several regulars are absent with the Test squad in England.

They did win the toss for the decider but were only able to post 81-8 from 20 overs, their third lowest total in the shortest format.

Wanindu Hasaranga was the star for Sri Lanka with the ball, claiming figures of 4-9 from his four overs of leg-spin, and Dasun Shanaka claimed two wickets.

Sri Lanka had few issues chasing such a meagre target, despite a sluggish start to their reply. Avishka Fernando (12), Minod Bhanuka (18) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (6) were the batsmen dismissed, all to the impressive Rahul Chahar (3-15).

Dhananjaya de Silva and Hasaranga made sure victory was secured with plenty of time to spare, finishing up on 23 and 14 not out respectively as the game finished midway through the 15th over following a wide bowled by Varun Chakravarthy.


Short of options, lacking in runs

India's squad suffered a further blow with Navdeep Saini ruled out of the winner-takes-all clash through injury. Sandeep Warrier, who had initially made the trip as a net bowler, was handed a debut, but the pace bowler had little to work with after the tourists' top order collapsed.

Captain Shikhar Dhawan fell for a first-ball duck as India slumped to 25-4 after 30 deliveries. Kuldeep Yadav finished up as the top scorer with 23 not out, one of just three players to reach double figures.

Happy birthday, Hasaranga! 

Hasaranga had already moved up to second in the T20I bowling rankings prior to producing career-best figures on Thursday. His dazzling spell included 15 dot balls, while he unsurprisingly did not concede a boundary. India did not manage to hit one six, either.

The birthday boy celebrated turning 24 in style, helping Sri Lanka win successive T20 games for the first time since October 2019 in the process, while India had not suffered back-to-back losses in the 20-over format since July 2017.

India went down by four wickets to Sri Lanka in Colombo on Wednesday, levelling their Twenty20 International series after losing a number of big names to a coronavirus outbreak.

The tourists will have to bounce back quickly ahead of Thursday's decider having come up just short of a victory that would have secured a fourth successive bilateral series success against Sri Lanka in this format.

Krunal Pandya's positive COVID-19 test prompted the postponement of this match on Tuesday and ruled out eight players as close contacts.

That meant there were four debutants in the India XI, with Ruturaj Gaikwad opening in a depleted batting line-up and Devdutt Padikkal coming in at number three, and Sri Lanka capitalised.

India made a promising start, but were restricted to 132-5 after being asked to bat first, captain Shikhar Dhawan top scoring with 40.

Although Minod Bhanuka (36) departed quickly after he was dropped by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sri Lanka remained within reach heading into the closing stages of their chase.

A brief late rain delay dragged out the drama and Sri Lanka – led by Dhananjaya de Silva (40 not out) – then immediately profited from a 12-run 19th over that brought them within eight, a target achieved with two balls to spare.

HERO TO ZERO

This should have been a night to remember for Bhuvneshwar, whose unbeaten career-high 13 in India's innings – batting up the order at six – was followed by his 50th wicket in the format. He is the fourth Indian bowler to this mark.

But, as well as that awful drop, he was the man running in for the 19th over, with Sri Lanka in complete control after Chamika Karunaratne hit a full toss for six.

TOUGH GROUNDING

For a time, it had appeared as though Bhuvneshwar was setting an example for Chetan Sakariya, the debutant seamer who struggled from the outset. Ultimately, they both contributed to India's defeat.

Starting alongside Bhuvneshwar in the attack, there were nine runs off Sakariya's first over and 10 off the second. A first wicket came in the third as Ramesh Mendis paid for his aggressive approach, but that over still brought eight and the miserable fourth saw Sri Lanka seal victory. Sakariya went for 34 off 3.4 overs.

The second Twenty20 International of the series between Sri Lanka and India has been put back a day after Krunal Pandya tested positive for coronavirus.

Pandya was in the India team that won the first match by 38 runs in Colombo on Sunday, but the all-rounder returned a positive test ahead of the second game scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) revealed eight members of the touring party were identified as close contacts with Pandya, so they have been forced into isolation.

Sri Lanka and India will instead contest the second game on Wednesday, with the third and final game of the series taking place on Thursday.

The BCCI revealed RT-PCR tests were undertaken to discover if there has been any further outbreak in the squad.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar took four wickets as India eased to a 38-run win over Sri Lanka in the first T20 international on Sunday.

India posted 164-5 after they were asked to bat first in Colombo, with skipper Shikhar Dhawan's 46 and a 34-ball 50 from Suryakumar Yadav providing the bulk of the runs.

Dushmantha Chameera (2-24) and Wanindu Hasaranga (2-28) did the damage for Sri Lanka, but the majority of the home side's batsmen failed to fire after the interval.

Avishka Fernando (26) and Charith Asalanka (44) briefly gave Sri Lanka some hope, but Kumar (4-22) and Deepak Chahar (2-24) got the job done as the hosts were bowled out for 126 with nine balls to spare.

Sri Lanka were outclassed in their recent T20I series in England, which ended in a 3-0 loss, but even on home soil Mickey Arthur's side lack the batting firepower and they have now won just once in their previous 14 completed fixtures.

The second and third Twenty20 internationals in Colombo, both also at the R. Premadasa Stadium, take place on Tuesday and Thursday as both sides continue their preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year.

Kumar closes in on milestone

India seamer Kumar was cool during the business end of the match as he took three of the final four wickets to fall. He needs just one wicket to reach 50 in T20I action for India and become the fourth player to achieve this feat for the country.

Shanaka must deliver more

Sri Lanka lost their final six wickets for less than 15 runs and needed more from T20 captain Dasun Shanaka, who made a tame 14-ball 16. Shanaka is normally an aggressive middle-order batsman but his modest innings included just one four before he was stumped off the bowling of debutant Varun Chakravarthy.

Sri Lanka will be hoping a win in 50-over cricket can trigger a white-ball resurgence as they prepare to take on India in a three-match T20I series, beginning on Sunday in Colombo.

Half-centuries from Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa helped Sri Lanka win the third and final ODI between the nations on Friday, just their second win in 11 outings.

They have struggled in T20 action too, winning just once in their previous 13 completed fixtures. Home advantage should help, yet they have not triumphed at the R. Premadasa Stadium – the venue for all three of the upcoming fixtures against India – in the shortest format since August 2018.

Runs were hard to come by on the recent tour of England, including being bowled out for 91 in the final match as the hosts completed an emphatic 3-0 sweep at the Ageas Bowl.

Sri Lanka at least avoided that fate against India in one-day action, aided by a turning track on Friday that allowed their spinners to trigger a batting collapse – the tourists lost their final seven wickets for just 68 runs following a rain delay.

They could also be boosted by the return of Wanindu Hasaranga, who missed the final ODI due to an injury concern.

India, meanwhile, remain without a number of their star names, so these games provide crucial opportunities for fringe players as they look to impress, particularly as this is a World Cup year.

Pushing the boundaries

Sri Lanka have hit a boundary once every 7.7 balls faced in the powerplay overs since the beginning of 2020 in T20I action, the worst rate for any team in that period. 

India have the third-slowest rate, taking 5.6 balls for every boundary. Captain Shikhar Dhawan will hope to help lower that number as he continues to lead the team, while Prithvi Shaw could get the chance to stake his claim for a regular top-order spot.

Positive spin can help India

Varun Chakravarthy could finally be handed his international debut in the series. India appeared keen to pick the mystery spinner against England in the T20I series on home soil earlier this year, yet concerns over his level of fitness ruled him out of contention.

The 29-year-old is a compelling option, though. He has taken 25 wickets in 21 matches in the Indian Premier League, 17 of which came in a 2020 campaign for the Kolkata Knight Riders that saw him finish with an economy rate of 6.84 runs per over.

Key series facts

– India are unbeaten against Sri Lanka in multi-game bilateral T20I series (W3 D1). India have beaten Sri Lanka in each of the past three such series, the most recent meeting being in January 2020.

– Sri Lanka have one win from their past 11 completed T20I matches against India (L10). The solitary triumph was achieved in March 2018 when the Lions beat the Men in Blue by five wickets at the very same venue this match is being played.

– Since the beginning of 2020, only 43 per cent of the runs scored by Sri Lanka in men's T20I matches have come via boundaries, the lowest rate for any team in that period.

– Dasun Shanaka has a batting dot ball rate of 48 per cent in T20I matches since the beginning of 2020. Only two players have a higher rate than the Sri Lankan (Chris Gayle at 53 per cent and Andre Fletcher at 51 per cent, minimum 100 balls faced).

– Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs five wickets to reach 50 in T20I action for India. He will become the fourth player to achieve this feat for his country, with his career-best figures seeing him take 5-24 against South Africa in 2018.

Sri Lanka claimed a much-needed victory in the third and final match of the ODI series against India, chasing down a revised target of 227 with three wickets to spare in Colombo.

Opener Avishka Fernando made 76 and, despite a late wobble, Sri Lanka sealed just their second victory in 11 completed 50-over fixtures, with this their first success since beating Bangladesh in late May.

A much-changed India had reached 147-3 before a lengthy rain break changed the complexion of the innings. Following the resumption, they lost their final seven wickets for 68 runs to be bowled out for 225.

Prithvi Shaw (49), debutant Sanju Samson (46) and Suryakumar Yadav (40) all made useful contributions, while Akila Dananjaya and Praveen Jayawickrama claimed three wickets apiece for the hosts.

Sri Lanka's reply included a maiden half-century in the one-day format for Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who reached the milestone with successive boundaries during a second-wicket partnership worth 109.

Krishnappa Gowtham - another new name included in the India XI - eventually ended the stand, dismissing Rajapaksa for 65 in his opening over, while the impressive Fernando departed for 76 with victory in sight.

Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka had departed for a first-ball duck too, but Ramesh Mendis' unbeaten 15 saw the hosts across the line with 48 balls remaining.


Fresh faces for India

India had the chance to equal their record for most consecutive ODI victories against Sri Lanka, having gone into the contest on a five-match winning streak. However, a side featuring no fewer than five debutants was unable to seal a sweep.

Still, wicketkeeper-batsman Samson impressed in a run-a-ball innings that included five fours and a six, while fellow new faces Chetan Sakariya and Rahul Chahar both claimed two wickets.

Moving on up

This result was timely for Sri Lanka – and not just because of their recent wretched run of form in the white-ball format.

They sat second from bottom in the ICC's Cricket World Cup Super League prior to the game, with only Zimbabwe below them in the standings. This win lifts them one place, above the Netherlands, as they battle to qualify for the 2023 50-over tournament, which will be held in India.

Deepak Chahar was India's unlikely batting hero as his 69 not out inspired a thrilling ODI series-clinching win over Sri Lanka by three wickets.

India coasted to victory with 80 balls to spare in the first match of the three-game rubber in Colombo but they were left with a tall task when a magical leg-spin display from Wanindu Hasaranga (3-37) left them 193-7 after 35.1 overs in pursuit of 275-9.

Chahar, who has a highest first-class score of 57 not out, rode his luck at times and found a willing ally in fellow tailender Bhuveneshwar Kumar (19 not out), before swiping the winning runs through midwicket off Kasun Rajitha from the first ball of the final over.

Chahar also took 2-53 with the ball and began in a more customary new-ball partnership with Kumar, although the first-wicket stand had reached 77 by the time leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (3-50) had Minod Bhanuka held at midwicket for 36.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa was then caught behind first ball off a Chahal top-spinner, although patient half-centuries by opener Aviskha Fernando (50) and Charith Asalanka (65) – both dismissed by Kumar (3-54) – were the foundations of a solid Sri Lanka innings. Chamika Karunaratne provided some welcome late acceleration with 44 not out from 33 balls.

Hasaranga bowled the dangerous Prithvi Shaw with a googly and trapped stand-in India skipper Shikhar Dhawan lbw for 29, Ishan Kishan having dragged on a Rajitha long-hop.

Manish Pandey was unfortunate to be run out for 37 when Dasun Shanaka tipped a shot back down the ground onto the stumps from Suryakumar, who looked like playing a decisive hand before bring trapped lbw by Lakshan Sandakan for 53.

Sri Lanka captain Shanaka also removed the dangerous Hardik Pandya for nought, with his brother Krunal bowled by a beauty from Hasaranga to clear the way for Chahar to set up a grandstand finish.

Chahar in dreamland

India are now undefeated in their past 12 ODI series against Sri Lanka, winning 10, but they were left in the unusual position of needing a significant lower-order contribution. Chahar's undefeated 69 is the second-highest score by anyone in this format for his country batting at number eight or lower.

"Only one thing was going on in my mind: this is the kind of innings I've been dreaming of," he beamed while being named player of the match.

Sri Lanka fail to match Hasaranga heroics

Hasaranga dearly deserved to finish on the winning side, but the difference between his efforts and those of Sri Lanka's other frontline bowlers was significant. The wrist-spinner's economy rate of 3.7 was not backed up by Rajitha (7.4), Sandakan (7.1) or Dushmantha Chameera (6.5), who went wicketless in his 10 overs. Shanaka contributed 1-10 from his three overs, leaving himself curiously under-bowled.

Shikhar Dhawan led from the front with an unbeaten 86 as India cruised to a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first ODI in Colombo.

The hosts headed into the contest on the back of coronavirus-interrupted preparations and ructions behind the scenes between players and the national board, but scrapped their way to a competitive 262-9 despite no player passing 50.

Dhawan - captaining a largely second-string India, given Virat Kohli's Test squad have departed for their Test series in England next month - ensured the tourists reached their target with 80 balls to spare, while debutant Ishan Kishan (59) and Prithvi Shaw (43) also impressed - the latter hitting nine of his 24 deliveries to the boundary.

Avishka Fernando and wicketkeeper Minod Bhanuka put on 49 for the opening wicket before Fernando lobbed Yuzvendra Chahal's (2-52) first delivery to Manish Pandey at short cover to depart for 33.

Leg-spinner Chahal excelled in tandem with slow left-armer Kuldeep Yadav (2-48), who accounted for Bhanuka (27) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa – the number three's breezy 24 from 22 deliveries briefly threatening to change the tempo – to leave Sri Lanka 89-3.

From that point it was a repeated story of useful contributions without anything substantial. New captain Dasun Shanaka and Charith Asalanka diligently compiled 39 and 38 respectively before each falling to swing bowler Deepak Chahar (2-37), while Krunal Pandya's miserly left-arm spin (1-26) snared up the middle overs, leaving Chamika Karunaratne's unbeaten 43 off 35 balls as Sri Lanka's highest score.

Shaw made it clear India would not be shackled in similar fashion as he climbed into Sri Lanka from the off.

 

Isuru Udana's two overs disappeared for 27 – including three successive fours through the covers - and the score was 58 when Fernando caught Shaw at long-on off Dhananjaya de Silva, whose two wickets came at a steep cost of 49 runs in five overs.

Kishan, who enjoyed an unforgettable 23rd birthday, ensured there was little let-up. He danced down the pitch to dispatch Dhananjaya for six first ball, clattering the next for four more through cover point.

The youngster reached a half-century in 33 balls and edged his 42nd behind off Lakshan Sandakan but Dhawan remained as a regal presence, finding further willing allies in Manish Pandey (26) and Suryakumar Yadav (31 not out) to complete a resounding victory.

Shanaka wants more variety from Sri Lanka

The difference between two – in isolation, at least – impressive opening partnerships set the tone for the contest. But the end of the first powerplay, Sri Lanka were 55-1. India were already up to 91-1 after 10 overs. "The Indians batted aggressively," Shanaka said. "We needed to vary the pace as the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. In the next game, we will have to improve on that."

Dhawan laughing as the elder statesman

When you've top-scored as a victorious captain and also surpassed 6,000 career ODI runs, there is perhaps no better time for self-deprecation. Dhawan certainly thought so, claiming he did not have the required shots to reach three figures with an exciting young batting line-up firing all around him.

"I was telling them to take it easy actually," he beamed, before chuckling his way through a post-match presentation where Shaw was named player of the match despite scoring half as many runs as his skipper.

"The way these young boys play in the IPL, they get lots of exposure and they just finished the game in the first 15 overs only. I thought about my hundred but there were not many runs left. When Surya came out to bat, I thought I need to improve my skills."

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