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Akila Dananjaya: Spotlight’s on the new mystery spinner from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka cricket team’s Akila Dananjaya grabbed six wickets in the space of 20 balls to put Indian cricket team in trouble before MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar added an unbroken 100-run partnership to see the visitors through in Pallekele

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 25, 2017 14:44 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Pallekele
India vs Sri Lanka,Sri Lanka vs India,SL vs IND
Sri Lanka cricket team spinner Akila Dananjaya (2R) celebrates with teammates after dismissing Indian cricket team’s Axar Patel during the second One Day International (ODI) at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.(AFP)

Fast bowlers hunt in a pack, but spinners can bond too. Ask young Sri Lanka cricket team bowler, Akila Dananjaya, who gave India a mighty scare in the second One-day International on Thursday. (SL vs IND 2nd ODI highlights)

The 23-year-old grabbed six wickets in the space of 20 balls to confound Indian cricket team batsmen before MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar added an unbroken 100-run partnership for the eighth wicket to ensure the visitors’ extended their winning run in Sri Lanka. (SL vs IND 2nd ODI scorecard)

Dananjaya was a sad Man of the Match after Sri Lanka failed to close it, having rushed back after his wedding the previous day. But he was delighted senior Sri Lanka spinners played a special role at the wedding.

Dananjaya got left-arm spinner, Rangana Herath, to sign as witness along with Ajantha Mendis, the last prominent mystery spinner for Sri Lanka.

“I like Herath from those days,” Dananjaya told a media conference after the match. “I like Ajantha too. Rangana is our Lanka number one. I liked them so much and invited the two of them to sign for my wedding.”

WRONG ’UN DOES IT

He is officially an off-spinner, but his variations are what get the batsmen. Dananjay bowled Indian circket team skipper Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav with the googly. He got Rohit Sharma leg before with a leg break and Axar Patel trapped with a straighter one. Hardik Pandya was stumped off a googly.

Sri Lanka were restricted to 236/8 and India, set a revised target of 231 off 47 overs after rain intervention, got there with 16 balls left.

“I realised the off-spin wasn’t helping much. So I decided get back to my variations. The target we had to defend wasn’t too much either. So we had to take wickets. I bowled a lot of variations and it went really well.

“I’m an off-spinner, (but) wicket-taking balls are leg-spin and googly.”

Dananjaya was spotted by former skipper Mahela Jayawardene at a net session in 2012 and fast-tracked to the national team. But the teenager with great control of the doosra, carrom ball, leg-break, googly and the stock ball was discarded after his 50-over game debut in 2012, only being recalled against Zimbabwe at home in June.

WAITING GAME

Sri Lanka spin bowling coach, Piyal Wijetunga said the presence of off-spinner Sachitra Senanayake, who played 49 ODIs between 2012 and 2015, kept him out. Dananjaya only played his fourth ODI on Thursday.

Senanayake, who had a potent carom ball, was even bought by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2013 for $650,000. But his international career went downhill after his bowling action was ruled illegal in 2014.

“Akila was not around because Sachithra was performing well for us. But he had an issue and had to remodel his action, and once he did that his effectiveness was less. We tried another off-spinner and Akila was able to come back,” Wijetunga said.

In 2013, Dananjaya was bought by Chennai Super Kings for $20,000. His stock is likely to go up if he builds on the Pallekele show.

First Published: Aug 25, 2017 14:35 IST