Bottle-flinging fans in Pallekele caused a 35-minute disruption, and prompted the intervention of riot police, in the closing stages of India’s six-wicket victory on Sunday. In the 44th over of India’s innings, plastic bottles began to be thrown from the two grass embankments that flank the ground – many of these projectiles made their way on to the playing area. Ground staff were seen clearing the bottles, but more continued to be flung, thereby forcing the Sri Lanka fielders to move to the centre of the field in order to avoid being hit.
At one stage, there was doubt as to whether the match could even be concluded, because the bottle-throwing persisted for so long. Having spent about 20 idle minutes near the pitch – MS Dhoni even finding time for a nap – players eventually shook hands and made their way off the field. Later, however, after the embankments were cleared of spectators, match referee Andy Pycroft decided the match could continue. India required only seven further deliveries to close out the game.
This is the second crowd-related incident in Sri Lanka in the space of two years. In 2015, a fight between two groups of fans had broken out in the stands at Khettarama, and had subsequently degenerated into stone-throwing. That incident had also caused a disruption of play, though on that occasion, no projectiles had been thrown towards the players.
Earlier in the month, fans in Dambulla had also held up the team bus in order to voice their displeasure after the first ODI. That incident, however, had not been marked by any violence.
India’s Rohit Sharma, left, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni rest as they wait for the game to resume after some spectators threw plastic bottles in the ground to disrupt the play during the third one-day international cricket match