India 201 for 6 (Rahul 54, Dhawan 52, Sandakan 3-35) beat Sri Lanka 123 (Dhananjaya 57, Mathews 31, Saini 3-28, Thakur 2-19) by 78 runs
India rode a rapid 97-run opening partnership, and a blistering finish from Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur, to a total of 201 for 6. Then their bowlers scythed through Sri Lanka’s top order, removing four batsmen inside the Powerplay, allowing Sri Lanka no more than 35 runs during the field restrictions, to derail their daunting chase.
There was a half-decent 31 from Angelo Mathews and an excellent 57 off 36 balls – the highest individual score in the game – from Dhananjaya de Silva. Left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan also took 3 for 35 from his four overs. India also had outstanding personal contributions – Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul making half-centuries, while Navdeep Saini finished with 3 for 28, the second time in as many matches that he has impressed. More than their individual performances, however, India ensured there were few weak performances across their XI. They won by a whopping 78, bowling Sri Lanka out in the 16th over.
India’s scorching start
Thirty runs apiece for each of India’s batsmen in the Powerplay. Sixty-three overall for India. Rahul and Dhawan didn’t stop there though. They stuck together for several more overs – their partnership worth 97 off 65 balls. It set the tone for yet another match that India would dominate – the hosts’ total almost certain to breach 170 after that stand.
It was Rahul who looked menacing first, stroking Lasith Malinga through point in the first over, before hitting Mathews [playing his first T20 international since mid-2018] for successive boundaries in the next over. Dhawan had a nervous start. He could have been caught on 1 off the bowling of Mathews, had Dasun Shanaka judged the chance better at deep square leg.
By the end of the Powerplay, though, both batsmen were striking serenely – Dhawan helping short-ish fast deliveries past third man, while Rahul was languidly launching de Silva’s offspin over long leg. Rahul made 54 off 36, and Dhawan 52 off 36. The pair had given India such a mighty platform, Virat Kohli even mixed up the batting order, and let Sanju Samson, Pandey and Shreyas Iyer all bat ahead of him.
The finishing fireworks
When Sri Lanka claimed wickets in quick succession through the middle overs, it felt like perhaps they could restrict India to the vicinity of 180. At the end of the 18th over, India were 167 for 6. Pandey had been batting nicely for several overs, but it was Thakur who really got the death-overs party started. He bludgeoned Malinga for six off the second ball he faced, then next over smoked Lahiru Kumara over the straight boundary, and then cracked him serenely over extra cover. Pandey hit two fours of his own through this period. Together, they put on 37 off 15 balls, and turned an imposing total into a gigantic one.
India blast out Sri Lanka’s top order
It was pretty much over by the time the Powerplay ended. Danushka Gunathilaka tried to pull Jasprit Bumrah from a terrible position, and spooned a catch to mid-on. Avishka Fernando struck a gorgeous six over midwicket off Thakur, but then sliced one straight to point next ball. Oshada Fernando was run out due to a mix-up, and Kusal Perera backed away and was bowled by Saini in the sixth over. With no batsmen in form, it was almost impossible to see Sri Lanka coming back from 26 for 4. Mathews and Dhananjaya staged a 72-run fifth-wicket partnership, but the stand needed to be pretty much twice that size for the visitors to have a chance.
Bright spots for Sri Lanka
In some India v Sri Lanka matches, there are zero positives for Sri Lanka, so casually do India put this opposition away. At least this time, there was some hope for Sri Lanka to hold on to. With Wanindu Hasaranga having done well in the first T20, Sandakan also proved a wicket-taking threat in this game, taking 3 for 35. It was Sandakan who claimed the wickets of both openers, as well as Iyer.
On the batting front, Dhananjaya looked assured as he smote eight boundaries and a six. As ever, with Dhananjaya, he relied heavily on his timing than power. If Dhananajay, who is a decent ODI and Test bowler, can develop his T20 bowling as well, perhaps he becomes an excellent option for Sri Lanka. The issue, though, is that although players can shine on certain tours, very few perform consistently for Sri Lanka.