Dananjaya's Near Wedding Gift To Sri Lanka

For good measure, Sri Lanka had been thoroughly outplayed by India in the ongoing bilateral series even before the scene shifted to Pallekele for the second of the five-match ODI leg. The hosts had been whitewashed 3-0 in the Tests and suffered a heavy defeat in the first ODI in Dambulla by nine wickets. Along expected lines, India took a 2-0 lead on Thursday (August 24), but it needed a remarkable comeback as MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar added an unbroken 100-run stand for the eighth wicket after India had slipped to 131 for 7. Young Akila Dananjaya so nearly disturbed the established order and won the game for the hosts. The off-spinner was introduced to the attack in the 12th over and turned the game upside down, finishing with career-best figures of 6 for 54.

Dananjaya had tied the knot less than 24 hours before the game at his hometown in Moartuwa (some 150 kilometers from Kandy) to childhood sweetheart Nethalie Tekshini. But instead of going on the honeymoon; he was back in the team hotel in Kandy that night ahead of the second ODI. "Dananjaya left for Moratuwa for his wedding on Tuesday from Kandy. He was back in the team hotel by 11:30 PM on Wednesday night. His wife came along as well to the team hotel and we are very happy with the performance he came up with " Sri Lanka's Cricket Manager Asanka Gurusinha told Cricbuzz. Sri Lanka's veteran spinner Rangana Herath was the witness at Dananjaya's wedding. Although none of his current team-mates were present, most other Sri Lankan cricketers, including spinner Ajantha Mendis, had been in attendance.

Daananjaya's bride was present at the ground to witness her husband winning the Man of the Match despite Sri Lanka ending up second best on the day. The 24-year-old had taken four wickets in the last game he played - against Zimbabwe in Hambantota - and was expected to play the opening fixture against India in Dambulla. But the Sri Lankans opted for the left-arm wrist spin of Lakshan Sandakan instead as he had enjoyed a decent outing in the final Test at Pallekele.

Dananjaya first rose to prominence when Mahela Jayawardene and Graham Ford picked him from nowhere for Sri Lanka's World T20 campaign at home in 2012. He had impressed the then Sri Lankan management as a net bowler and they wanted him fast tracked to the senior side despite not having played any first class cricket.

On Thursday, with his bowling, Dhananjaya became a soothing balm for thousands of Sri Lankan fans, who have endured several humiliating defeats in the year. He ended the 109-run opening wicket stand between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan when Rohit was trapped leg before wicket for 54 in the 16th over. The batsman went onto review the decision unsuccessfully. In his next over, he was all over the Indians. Kedar Jadhav, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul were foxed by the wrong-un and lost their stumps as the tourists inexplicably fell to 119 for 5 as Sri Lanka seized the initiative. He completed his maiden five-wicket haul in the next over when Hardik Pandya came down the track, but the googly went through bat pad and settled in Niroshan Dickwella's gloves, allowing for a simple stumping.

Dhananjaya wasn't finished yet, as he trapped Axar Patel leg before wicket with a ball that went straight on to reduce India to 131 for 7. Captain Upul Tharanga held back two of his overs, a move that added to his own over-rate woes (Sri Lanka were behind the rate and could see their captain fined) and released the pressure on India and allowed Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar to orchestrate the heist. The spotlight remained on the Dananjaya even if all the celebratory noise came from the adjoining dressing room. It was a truly memorable bowling effort, but for Sri Lanka, it was another case of so near, yet so far.