VISAKHAPATNAM – Opener Shikhar Dhawan’s blazing century and a decisive spell by their wrist spinners powered India to a series-clinching eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the third one-day international on Sunday.
Chasing 216 for victory, India rode on a 135-run partnership between Dhawan (100 not out) and Shreyas Iyer (65) to romp home in 32.1 overs in Visakhapatnam.
Dhawan completed his 12th ODI hundred in 85 balls, his knock laced with 13 fours and two sixes, before taking India to their eighth consecutive ODI series victory since June 2016.
But it was Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal who set up the comprehensive victory after taking three wickets each to help restrict the visitors to 215 all out in 44.5 overs.
“They haven’t bowled much together as bowlers, but whenever they have played, they bowled really well. They put us in the driver’s seat,” India skipper Rohit Sharma said of his spinners.
“The youngsters bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and talent to the group and it’s a perfect time to try them,” Sharma added.
The hosts lost Sharma early after he was bowled by off-spinner Akila Dananjaya for seven, but it was only a minor blemish in an otherwise comfortable chase.
Iyer, who registered his second successive half-century in just his third ODI, combined with Dhawan to take the attack to the opposition bowlers.
Starting with a fast-spin combination of Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya from either end, the visitors built up some early pressure only to lose steam against the in-form batsmen.
Iyer, who made 88 in the Mohali ODI, hit eight fours and a six during his 63-ball knock before falling to skipper Thisara Perera. The batsman mistimed a pull to be caught at mid-on.
The left-handed Dhawan, who was named man of the series for his 168 runs in three matches, stayed firm with Dinesh Karthik, who made 26, for company as India bounced back with two straight wins after losing the opener in Dharamsala.
“Terrific comeback after the first game. We showed plenty of character. Even today at one point they were going at six an over, and to pull the game back from there is magnificent,” Sharma said.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had got off to a strong start with opener Upul Tharanga making a 82-ball 95 after the visitors were invited to bat first.
Tharanga’s 121-ball second-wicket partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama, who made 42, was the highlight of the Sri Lankan innings that fell apart from a commanding 136/1.
Leg-spinner Chahal got Samarawickrama, who was included in the XI in place of Lahiru Thirimanne, caught at deep cover to end the stubborn stand.
The in-form Tharanga, who registered his 36th ODI 50, kept up the pressure with an attacking innings as he passed 1 000 runs in 2017.
But Yadav, who got the man-of-the-match award for his bowling figures of 3/42, checked Sri Lanka’s surge in the 28th over after denying Tharanga a hundred and then sending Niroshan Dickwella (8) trudging back to the pavilion.
Tharanga, who hit 12 fours and three sixes, was beaten by a tossed-up delivery from the left-arm wrist spinner, and wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni pulled off a sharp stumping.
Chahal soon joined in to take the key wickets of Angelo Mathews for 17 and skipper Thisara Perera for six as Sri Lanka slipped to 197/6 and failed to survive their full quota of 50 overs.
“We have to think about the T20s, everything is past, we have to think about the present,” Perera said.
Meanwhile, veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga continued to be kept out of Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 squad that will play three matches against India starting Wednesday in Cuttack.