Rahul steers tricky chase as India seal series in Kolkata

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Rahul steers tricky chase as India seal series in Kolkata

KL Rahul shepherded India home expertly with an unbeaten 64 in a tricky chase as Sri Lanka ran India hard before losing the series 0-2.

After being bowled out for just 215, Sri Lanka did not give in easily with the ball at the Eden Gardens. While spin did the trick for India, it was pace that kept Sri Lanka in the game. Chamika Karunaratne gave them the initial breakthrough having Rohit Sharma caught behind before Lahiru Kumara struck with his pacy bowling. An attacking Shubman Gill was out caught at midwicket after hitting Kumara for successive boundaries while Virat Kohli was castled by a sharp incoming delivery.

While Shreyas Iyer looked well set with five boundaries in his 28, he fell against the run of play when Kasun Rajitha trapped him LBW with India on just 86. They were lifted from a spot of bother by a patient stand between Rahul and Hardik Pandya. The duo did not take any undue risks and milked their way to a 75 runs off 119 balls. But with 55 more needed, Pandya was out edging behind against Karunaratne.

In a sticky position again, they were helped by an attacking Axar Patel who hit 21offthe 30 runs he shared with Rahul before holing out to deep extra cover. Rahul got his 12th ODI fifty soon after that and then managed to stitch together the 25 remaining runs with a confident Kuldeep Yadav, who had earlier also starred with the ball.

Yadav was the wrecker-in-chief, as he triggered a stunning collapse to restrict Sri Lanka to 215 after they opted to bat.

The collapse that saw them lose five wickets for 24 runs came against the run of play; Sri Lanka had started rather steadily. While Avishka Fernando was troubled by the away moving deliveries from the seamers, he still raced away to 20 before he was castled by Mohammad Siraj bringing the ball back in.

This was followed by another sprightly stand, between Kusal Mendis and debutant Nuwanidu Fernando. The duo complemented each other well and started off confidently against the pacers. Umran Malik was hit for fourteen in his first over as the fifty run partnership came up off just 46 balls. While Mendis looked in good touch, even nailing a pulled six off Umran, he was done in once spin was introduced.

Kuldeep Yadav, who had replaced the injured Yuzvendra Chahal, started tidily and capped off his first over with the wicket of Mendis, having him trapped LBW while missing a top spinner. The review confirmed the on-field call despite good bounce with the ball being tracked to clip the stumps. It ended a 73-run stand between the duo and began the rapid slide.

Axar Patel, brought in from the other end, struck off just his second ball as Dhananjaya de Silva was bowled for a first ball duck. After Sri Lanka lost two in the space of three balls, the debutant attempted to arrest the slide and even brought up his half century. But that joy was short-lived for he was run out soon after, after a Shubman Gill dive at midwicket caused confusion between the two batters in the middle.

118/4 seemed like a situation tailor-made for skipper Dasun Shanaka who was fresh off a century. But he too failed, as he was bowled trying to sweep Kuldeep. In his next over, the left-arm wrist spinner had Charith Asalanka caught and bowled off a leading edge and pushed Sri Lanka to 126/6, and in danger of being bowled out for less than 200.

However, the lower order ensured that there was a little more gap, and runs, between the wickets. First came Wanindu Hasaranga who took down Kuldeep Yadav with a six and two cut boundaries in an over. But as India opted to attack him with Umran Malik’s extra pace, he ended up slicing a catch to point.

Dunith Wellalage then stitched together useful stands – 25 with Chamika Karunaratne and 38 with Kasun Rajitha – that took Sri Lanka past the 200-run mark. Umran ended Karunaratne’s stay as Axar took a sharp catch at backward point while Siraj managed to wrap up the innings quickly after Wellalage pulled him for a six. He had Welllalage giving Axar his third catch at backward point immediately after being hit for six and then knocked over Lahiru Kumara’s middle stump to fold the innings up in under 40 overs.

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