KL Rahul stays calm in crisis to seal series after bowlers lay the pitch
For a change, Rohit Sharma found no success with the bat at Eden Gardens on Thursday, scoring only 17. His bowlers, however, ensured he left his happy hunting ground with a smile on his face.
Led by Kuldeep Yadav (3/51), coming in place of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who missed out due to a sore right shoulder, India’s bowlers packed Sri Lanka off for a modest 215 in 39.1 overs. Thereafter, India rode KL Rahul’s unbeaten 64 and his crucial 75-run fifth-wicket stand with Hardik Pandya (36) to win them the second ODI by four wickets with 40 balls to spare and also seal the three-match series with an unassailable 2-0 lead.
“I’m game for batting at any position and always ready to deal with challenges. I’m enjoying my work,” Rahul said later.
The bowlers delivered on this occasion, but the little bit of assistance from the Eden pitch for quicks once again troubled India’s top order. This goes on to reflect how important Kuldeep’s performance was, as it simply turned the game in India’s favour.
Debutant Nuwanidu Fernando (50), replacing injured opener Pathum Nissanka, and the experienced Kusal Mendis (34) had put on an industrious 82-run stand for the second wicket after Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat first. Then began the Kuldeep show.
From 102/1 in the 17th over, Sri Lanka slipped to 126/6 in over No.25. Not giving too much flight, the chinaman bowler focused on keeping it a tad flatter without looking for the extra bit of turn. He kept targeting the stumps and that proved good enough to rattle the Sri Lankan line-up.
Mendis was trapped lbw before Kuldeep picked up the important scalp of rival skipper Dasun Shanaka, who was cleaned up trying to sweep a delivery that pitched on the middle-and-leg stump. Charith Asalanka then had no idea of the loop as he gave a simple return catch to Kuldeep, who was calm with the bat too (10 not out) in the unbroken 28-run seventh-wicket stand with Rahul.
Along with Kuldeep, who triggered the collapse, quicks Mohammed Siraj (3/30 in 5.4 overs) and Mohammed Shami (0/43 in 7 overs) ensured the visitors remained under the pump.
India, in reply, began briskly. But with Chamika Karunaratne and Lahiru Kumara hitting the right areas and getting a bit of movement, India were reduced to 86/4 by the 15th over.
While Shubman Gill wasted a good chance to get another good score, Rohit couldn’t avoid the nick outside offstump. Last match’s centurion Virat Kohli’s problems against the moving ball were again exposed and Shreyas Iyer then missed a pitched-up delivery to be out lbw.
Hours before the match on Wednesday night, there was a bit of a concern in the Indian camp with head coach Rahul Dravid feeling a bit uneasy because of the delay in taking his medicine for high blood pressure. That was sorted out in due time though. With the other Rahul solving matters on the field, Dravid should feel a lot better now.