Pallekele: Mahendra Singh Dhoni's oodles of experience in pressure situations came in handy as he successfully anchored a tricky chase, guiding India to a three-wicket victory against Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Pallekele on Thursday.
The former skipper scored a patient unbeaten 45 off 68 balls, but more importantly mentored Bhuvneshwar Kumar (53 not out) as they added 100 runs for the eighth wicket to reach the revised victory target of 231 in 44.2 overs under Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.
India now take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
This was after unheralded mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya (6/54 in 10 overs) infused life into a series, which has been panned by all and sundry for the lopsided contests starting with the Test matches.
India were reduced to 131 for 7 when Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar joined forces. The pitch, which looked easy for batting 15 minutes prior to their union, was suddenly looking venomous after the Indian batting line-up was seriously challenged for the first time in the past one month.
Dhoni, whose finishing skills have been put to test in recent times, showed that experience worth its weight in gold as he tapped around for singles and doubles. The target being a modest one and the run-rate being under check also helped his cause as his innings only had one boundary.
The former skipper soaked in the pressure initially as Bhuvneshwar played a lot of dot balls. However once the partnership crossed 40, the latter showed that he is more than a capable batsmen.
Dananjaya was hit for two boundaries in the 40th over by Bhuvneshwar when the match decisively swung in India's favour. However, it ended in an anti-climax when the winning run came through a wide delivery.
But the match will also be remembered for a 15-minute mayhem that had left the much-vaunted Indian batting in complete tatters.
Chasing a revised victory target after the rain interruption, India were cruising along with Rohit Sharma (54 off 45 balls) in sublime touch, alongside man of the moment, Shikhar Dhawan (49 off 50 balls). The duo put on 109 runs for the opening stand before Dananjaya bowled a flipper which saw Rohit missing a sweep shot.
He was adjudged leg-before and the review was wasted. Within four runs, left-arm spinner Milinda Siriwardana got rid of Dhawan to have India 113 for 2.
However the drama unfolded in the 18th over when Indian batsmen were simply unable to read Dananjaya's googly.
Kedar Jadhav (1) didn't show any footwork as the wrong 'un rifled into middle and leg stump.
Within a couple of deliveries, skipper Virat Kohli (4) was deceived by flight as he yorked himself to a googly.
KL Rahul's indecisive footwork saw India slump to 119 for 5 by the time the over ended.
In his very next over Dananjaya completed his maiden five-for when Hardik Pandya (0) jumped down the track to get stumped.
Axar Patel became Dananjaya's sixth victim but got a debatable leg-before decision before Bhuvneshwar joined forces with Dhoni as India were looking down the barrel at 131 for 7.
Exactly 100 runs were needed and the duo were up for the task.
Earlier, Indian bowlers once again put up an impressive performance to restrict Sri Lanka to 236 for 8. Indian team would rather be disappointed as they had Lanka on the mat at 121 for 5 before a 91-run stand between Milinda Siriwardana (58) and experienced Chamara Kapugedera (40) enabled the home team reach a semblance of respectability.
This was after Virat Kohli won his fifth consecutive toss on this tour and opted to field.
Put into bat, Niroshan Dickwella (31) and Danushka Gunathilaka (19) made a quick start to their innings. India handed the new ball to Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-53) and Jasprit Bumrah (4/43). The two openers showed aggressive intent.
Bumrah was taken for a few runs in his initial spell as Dickwella hit two sixes off him.
Lanka's 50-mark came up in the 9th over but Bumrah had got his revenge when he had Dickwella caught at short midwicket in the 8th over.
Kusal Mendis (19) then joined Gunathilaka and put on 29 runs for the 2nd wicket before the latter was stumped off Yuzvendra Chahal (2-43) in the 15th over.
It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 99th stumping in ODI cricket, equalling Kumar Sangakkara's record albeit in fewer games.
Skipper Upul Tharanga (9) then edged a simple outswinger from Hardik Pandya (1-24) to slip in the 16th over. Then Mendis was out leg before sweeping off Chahal in the 24th over as Lanka were reduced to 99/4.
It seemed a familiar script as Angelo Mathews (20) too followed back to the dressing room, out LBW to Axar Patel (1- 30) in the 29th over.
But Siriwardana and Kapugedara pulled their team out of the hole with a resolute partnership. The duo played within themselves and didn't seem to be in any hurry to score runs, even as they didn't let the scoring rate dip too far.
They were helped in that Pandya had to go off in the 28th over as he seemed to have strained his left calf.
The all-rounder came back on the field twice, but finally hobbled off in the latter stages of the innings. Kedar Jadhav (0-32) completed his quota of overs.
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It is now expected that the players would be allowed to enter the bio-bubble by Monday as they complete a week-long hard quarantine after their arrival from the United Kingdom.
Dhawan also praised the spinners for bringing India back into the match after Sri Lanka made a strong start.
India were bundled out for a meagre 225 with Sri Lankan spinners Akila Dananjaya (3/44) and Praveen Jayawickrama (3/59) wreaking havoc in the middle overs.