India 148 for 4 (Shreyas 73*, Kumara 2-39) beat Sri Lanka 146 for 5 (Shanaka 74*, Avesh 2-23) by six wickets
Avesh Khan and Mohammed Siraj showed serious pace and skill in helpful conditions to blow away Sri Lanka’s top order, and there was no coming back from 29 for 4 – even after an unbeaten 38-ball 74 from Dasun Shanaka that transcended the circumstances, the conditions, and the ordinariness of his team-mates’ output. Extras (24) was the second-highest scorer, and no Sri Lanka batter other than Shanaka (194.73) managed to score at even a run a ball.
Sri Lanka only set a target of 147, and it never really tested India, even though they went into this match a batter short and had Harshal Patel slotted at No. 7. Shreyas Iyer commanded the run-chase with his third half-century in three games, and Ravindra Jadeja – who didn’t bowl a ball – scored an unbeaten 22 to ensure India’s lack of depth didn’t get tested.
India, who wrapped up the series 3-0 and completed their 12th successive T20I win, will now reflect on a triumphant shortest-format home season that has left them with a problem of plenty as far as selection for the T20 World Cup later in the year is concerned.
New approach, new problems
Yesterday, Sri Lanka’s openers batted with caution to ensure they didn’t lose early wickets on a Dharamsala pitch that offered both bounce and seam movement when the ball was new. Their openers put on 67, and they eventually put up a total of 183, but India still won with 17 balls to spare.
Perhaps because of this, Sri Lanka’s top order took more chances early on today, and that didn’t work either. The bounce made it particularly risky to try and hit good-length balls down the ground, and Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka were both dismissed while attempting to do so against Avesh and skying the ball off the high part of the bat. Danushka Gunathilaka had already inside-edged an attempted pull onto his stumps off Siraj by then, and Sri Lanka’s situation worsened further when Janith Liyanage was bowled through the gate by a Ravi Bishnoi googly in the ninth over. At 29 for 4, they were going nowhere.
Shanaka to the rescue
Sri Lanka’s next two partnerships were worth 31 and an unbroken 86, but Dinesh Chandimal and, in particular, Chamika Karunaratne were mostly just spectators. Shanaka began cautiously, as he had to in the situation he walked into, and moved to 25 off 19 by the end of the 16th over.
Then, as he had done yesterday, he took India’s bowlers apart at the death with his clean hitting, capitalising on width when he was offered any, and showing tremendous hitting range down the ground, especially when he used the power of his bottom wrist to shovel low full-tosses – which aren’t usually easy to hit – back over the bowler’s head.
Siraj, Bishnoi and Harshal Patel all went for plenty, and Avesh, who only conceded four runs in his first three overs, gave up 19 in his fourth. Sri Lanka took 56 off their last four overs, and they had something to bowl at.
Chameera gets Rohit again
With Ishan Kishan ruled out after taking a blow to his helmet on Saturday, Rohit Sharma walked out with a new opening partner in Sanju Samson. Rohit adopted a similar approach to Sri Lanka’s top order, and on the day achieved similar results, skying a catch to mid-off while attempting to hit his nemesis Dushmantha Chameera over the top. On this pitch, particularly against the new ball, the “hard” length for fast bowlers was a much larger patch on the pitch, extending fuller than it usually does in Indian conditions. It was the sixth time Chameera had dismissed Rohit in T20Is. No other bowler has dismissed any batter even five times.
Shreyas takes over
Shreyas is a lavishly gifted player, but his batting against high pace and shorter lengths has always come under the scanner. Lahiru Kumara’s first ball was a 147kph rib-tickler that Samson tucked into the leg side for a single. Shreyas, facing the next ball, gave himself yards of room, expecting a similar delivery with the field set for such a ball, with the two fielders outside the circle stationed at fine leg and deep square leg. The ball arrived exactly where Shreyas wanted it to, and he slashed it over point for four.
The next ball was over-corrected and overpitched, and Shreyas caressed it between cover point and extra-cover. He was looking in rare touch already, and with the target not a particularly challenging one, the question for India was how the rest of their inexperienced line-up would perform.
As it turned out, there were promising starts from Samson and Deepak Hooda, but they only made 18 and 21 respectively. When Venkatesh Iyer was fourth out in the 13th over, joining the long list of batters who succumbed to the extra bounce of this pitch, India needed 44 off 46 with six wickets in hand.