India withstand Wellalage special to clinch Asia Cup final berth

India withstand Wellalage special to clinch Asia Cup final berth

Colombo, Sri Lanka. 11th September 2023. Shardul Thakur of India (R) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Mohammad Rizwan of Pakistan during the Asia Cup 2023 super four one-day international (ODI) cricket match between India and Pakistan

India sealed their place in the final of the 2023 Asia Cup with a thrilling victory over Sri Lanka in the Super 4s at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Defending a small target of 214, the Indian pacers made some early inroads before Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja ran through the Sri Lankan lower order to give the Men in Blue a narrow victory by 41 runs.

Dunith Wellalage starred for the hosts, taking 5/40 and scoring an unbeaten 42, but the all-rounder ran out of partners in the chase as India ended Sri Lanka’s 13-game unbeaten streak in ODIs.

On a drier surface in stark contrast to India’s previous encounter against Pakistan, the Indian openers gave the visitors another strong start after Rohit Sharma won the toss. The skipper passed the 10,000-run milestone on his way to a fluent fifty, becoming the second-fastest batter after Virat Kohli in ODIs to achieve this feat.

However, the introduction of Dunith Wellalage in the 12th over derailed the Indian innings. The finger-spinner ran riot on a pitch assisting spin, removing five of the Indian top six. The left-armer cleaned up Shubman Gill with a beauty off his first delivery, getting the ball to turn past the outside edge and hit the off-stump, before sending back Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in his next two overs.

KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan temporarily steadied the ship with a half-century stand, but Wellalage returned to wreak havoc, removing the keeper and Hardik Pandya to leave the Men in Blue reeling at 172/6. India’s trial by spin continued as off-spinner Charith Asalanka chipped in with an extraordinary spell of 4 for 18 in nine overs to skittle the visitors for 213.

Defending a low score, the Indian seamers struck with the new ball to even the scales. Jasprit Bumrah had Pathum Nissanka nicking off in the third over. The pacer also outfoxed Kusal Mendis with an expertly disguised slower ball before Mohammed Siraj chipped in with the wicket of Dimuth Karunaratne.

Sri Lanka ended the powerplay at 39/3 and continued to lose wickets through the middle. Kuldeep Yadav extended his fine form, dismissing Samarawickrama and Asalanka in successive overs, while Ravindra Jadeja got rid of the captain Dasun Shanaka, restricting the Islanders to 99/6 at the halfway mark.

However, Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage guided Sri Lanka out of their hole with a timely half-century stand, taking the hosts within touching distance of a memorable win. At 162/6, the game began to slip away from India’s grasp, but de Silva played a rash shot to hole out to Shubman Gill at mid-on. His dismissal opened the floodgates for the Men in Blue as Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya wrapped up the final three wickets in quick succession to give India a hard-fought win by 41 runs.