Suranga Lakmal is a war hero. He doesn’t have a sword, or a helmet, or the metal chest wear that protects him from blows. But his curly hair, streaked with brown has a Lasith Malinga look about it although it hasn’t reached the maggie-level that Malinga took it to. The hair isn’t his weapon. Neither is the white sacred thread running across his wrists.
His weapon is the ball. Red or white. When Lakmal is in his elements, he is an invincible war hero. India know it all too well. They had seen him in his real avatar in the Kolkata Test. But what they didn’t know was his avatar at Kolkata had a higher version, a more scary, daunting version.
In Dharamsala, during the first ODI, it unfurled itself on the Indians, wrecking havoc, creating an uproar and sending the nation into fits of hysteria.
Top game fellows @OfficialSLC Wondrful team effort.. Lakmal lead the way but everyone chipped in… enjoy the win but much bigger game in Mohali.. that would make the difference !!! Proud of you !!
— Russel Arnold (@RusselArnold69) December 10, 2017
The Indian fans have watched their side being decimated by opposition, but mostly on television. To witness a foreign fast bowler come to their country, bowl, like he did and thwart India till they knelt down on their knees, was a bit of an unknown for them.
Of course, there have been instances when fast bowlers have had their dog at India in India. But they have been rare; so rare that the last one dates back to Junaid Khan’s sizzling spell in 2012 against India.
They had Dhoni then. They had Dhoni now.
The difference was that India had a much fitter, much more audacious Dhoni then. And of course, the fact that they weren’t 29/7 helped.
29/7. Read that again.
A no.8 ranked side, blanked 5-0 in there backyard just over three months ago, playing the same no.1 side needed just 20 overs to ensure that the One Day match was theirs, Dhoni or no Dhoni.
In the first 10 overs, just 11 runs were scored; the worst in the history of ODI cricket.
Of Lakmal’s 60 balls, more than 30 beat the bat or found the edge. Rohit Sharma, holder of the highest individual score in ODIs, looked completely at sea against Lakmal and his fireballs.
The seamer’s first over was a maiden. It set the tone for the game. It eerily brought memories of the Rohit Sharma who failed to get bat to ball against Dale Steyn for a whole spell in an ODI.
In his first 12 balls, only one landed in the wrong area. Rohit immediately tucked it towards mid-wicket to collect a couple. But that was all he got from Lakmal.
Congratulations Sri Lanka on a comprehensive win. Lakmal and co. made most of the conditions. MS Dhoni once again showed how to bat calmly under pressure.
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) December 10, 2017
In his next over, first ball, the pace bowler shortened his length, got the ball to straighten and the edge off Rohit Sharma’s bat carried to the keeper. It took a review to send Rohit back but Lanka were right on top with both the openers back in the hut.
Dinesh Karthik walked out to a Suranga Lakmal singing music with the white ball. The first delivery he faced was a snorter, one that seamed back in and cut him in half whilst he tried to defend unsuccessfully. The second one shaped away to miss his defensive prod.
It was high-quality seam bowling. The kind of bowling you would want to see from your quicker bowlers on such a wicket. Even by the time Karthik faced him again, he had no clue on playing him. The ball missed the bat a third successive time. While he did defend the next, no runs came off that over.
4-3-2-1 read Lakmal’s figures at the time.
On another day, he would have had all 10 by then. Such was the shape and control he possessed that the batsmen were helplessly dancing to his music. Karthik survived three more dots – eighteen in all – before Lakmal knocked him over with a one-two plan. Three balls that swung away from the right-hander was followed up by one that swung in and Karthik was a sitting duck, playing all around the ball that thudded plumb into his pads.
Lakmal’s music wouldn’t stop. Manish Pandey was now at the receiving end as the Sri Lankan seamer continued to work magic. It didn’t last long. Lakmal took less than two overs to work over the middle-order batsman. The outside edge was induced and it safely carried to first slip as India were reduced to 16/4 which quickly turned into 16/5, the worst ever score for which India had lost their first five wickets.
Career best figures for Suranga Lakmal ? pic.twitter.com/lmbF2aMuhe
— ICC (@ICC) December 10, 2017
If Hardik Pandya thought counter-attacking was the way to go about things, he did not account for Nuwan Pradeep at the other end. Pradeep sent Pandya on his way while Lakmal continued to relentlessly bowl on a fourth-stump channel, letting the ball zip around, working over the batsmen with a mix of away swinging and inswinging deliveries.
Bhuvneshwar left soon, looking absolutely zombie-like to Lakmal’s outstanding abilities. He capped off his terrific, mind-blowing spell with a maiden. His ten overs had gone for just 13 and yielded 4 wickets. That Lanka gave 41 runs away before they could find another wicket shows how well Lakmal bowled.
There are days when fast bowlers look at the heavens helplessly and then there are days like these when a heroic bowler stamps his authority over batsmen, possessing 100% control over the ball. Lakmal’s wasn’t just any ten over spell. It was probably the best he would ever bowl. Not many bowlers are lucky to get career-best figures and a Man of the Match the day they bowl their best. Lakmal is lucky, but he made his luck.