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It might have been a low key tour that was overshadowed by the Olympics but it resulted in a drastic change in rankings with India climbing to Number 2 in ODIs and Number 4 in T20s. The dominant Indian team produced another commanding display to thrash the listless Lankans by 39 runs and round off the successful tour with a thunderous bang. Put in to bat first, Virat Kohli continued his invincible form to take India to a competitive score of 155. Kohli, cut, drove and pulled with majestic ease en route to his dazzling 48 ball 68. Sri Lanka hit the blockhole in the death to limit India to an achievable total, but their batsmen capitulated to 116 all out. Losing wickets in clumps knocked the wind out of the Lankan chase. Ashok Dinda (4-19) and Irfan Pathan(3-27), sharing 7 wickets between them were the wreckers-in-chief as India cruised to a comfortable win.
Team India, rising to the Number 2 position in the ICC ODI Rankings after outclassing Sri Lanka 4-1 in the one-dayers, were looking to extend their supremacy when the two teams clashed in the solitary T20 fixture at Pallekele on a pleasant Tuesday evening. With the World T20 Championship scheduled to get underway in the Emerald Isles on September 18th, this game carried a truckload of significance.
India were without the services of opening batsman Virender Sehwag and opening bowler Zaheer Khan, who had returned home early. Their absence paved for Ajinkya Rahane and Umesh Yadav to make the cut. Viru, suffering from a glute problem is expected to be fit for the series against New Zealand. The wounded Lankan lions, desperate to redeem a bit of honor replaced Sachitra Senanayake and Nuwan Pradeep with Rangana Herath and Shaminda Eranga respectively.
Sri Lankan stalwart Mahela Jayawardene, who was rested on Saturday came back into the team and took over the captaincy reins from Angelo Mathews. Mahela began on an auspicious note by winning the toss and electing to field first on what appeared to be a fine batting track.
The format might have changed but Sri Lanka's shoddy fielding showed no signs of abating. Eranga botched up a skier at deep midwicket to offer the in-form Gambhir a 'life' in the very first over. However, the left arm paceman made amends 4 deliveries later by knocking over Gauti's middle stump for 6. Coming in at one drop, Virat Kohli plunged into action straightaway with 5 scintillating boundaries in 2 overs. The Delhi dasher's luscious extra cover drive stood out. Winston Churchill said ,"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Kohli, whose stroke-play was limited in the morning of his career is now a perfect batsman in the truest sense of the word.
Runs(fours) came thick and fast for Kohli. He launched India's fifty just before the conclusion of the mandatory powerplay via a poetic flick off Perera. Ajinkya Rahane soon joined the party with a well executed six over long off. The busy pair also ran like Usain Bolt between the wickets. India were on course towards a healthy total at 71-1 in 10 overs.
Kohli then cantered to his maiden T20 half century thanks to a loft over mid-off that traveled to the fence. Against the run of play, Rahane lapped one back to Jeevan Mendis to hand Sri Lanka the crucial break-through. The 24 year old was done in by the tossed up googly. The tag team spin duo of Herath and Mendis did a creditable job by squeezing the flow of runs.
An undaunted Kohli though was in no mood to relent. Suresh Raina, swift to get his bearings right, caused jitters in the opposition camp. The momentum was back with the men in blue.
Besides, finding the fence regularly, Raina milked the bowlers expertly. In an attempt to up the ante further, Kohli holed out in the deep, Eranga the benefactor. He completed his spell with decent returns of 2-30.
Suresh Raina, the finisher, unfurled his trademark bent knee loft for six in the 18th over. Shockingly Helicopter Dhoni (16* from 14) struggled to take off as India lost steam at the death. India managed to score only 35 in the final 5 overs, the period where Lanka held their nerve to foil the explosion and undermine India's blistering start.
Irfan Pathan, bowling with surgical precision and discipline, struck thrice in his first three overs to drive a dagger through Lanka's top order. Whilst Tillakaratne Dilshan was castled for a golden duck, Upul Tharanga(5) was safely pouched at slip. Mahela Jaywardene (26), bumping himself to the opening slot illustrated some typically wristy shots laced with grace before he fell leg before. Umesh Yadav in particular received a pasting from Mahela.
Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne rescued the innings briefly. But, India's lead spinner Ravi Ashwin got rid of the southpaw with his first ball to halt the 33 run stand. Thirimanne's needless reverse-sweep saw Lanka dig a grave for themselves. In pursuit of 156, Sri Lanka were in trouble at 72-4 in 10 overs.
Dhoni, wriggling out three tidy overs from batting maestro Kohli (3-0-13-0), kept Sri Lanka were under the cosh. The scoreboard pressure soon got the better of Mahela's boys. Dinda, settling into a good length caused Mathews (31) to nick one to Dhoni. Umesh Yadav redeemed himself briefly by dismissing the spunky Jeevan Mendis for 11. Much to the chagrin of the home supporters, Thisara Perera (1) too failed to fire as Manoj Tiwary's bullet throw caught him short of his crease.
The Indians performed the final rites on the Lankan batting unit and wiped them out for 116. It was just another day at the office for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his merry men.
India, who bossed Sri Lanka to welcome the challenging new season in style, will strive hard to sustain the same intensity throughout the year. All rounder Irfan Pathan's remarkable resurgence has been India's biggest takeaway from this tour. Sri Lanka meanwhile will go back to the drawing board to iron out the creases and gear up for the much hyped Sri Lankan Premier League.
Sri Lanka: T Dilshan, U Tharanga, L Thirimanne, D Chandimal(wk), M Jayawardene(c), A Mathews, J Mendis, T Perera, R Herath, L Malinga, S Eranga
India: G Gambhir, A Rahane, V Kohli, R Sharma, M Tiwary, S Raina, MS Dhoni(c&wk), I Pathan, R Ashwin, U Yadav, A Dinda
India: 155-3 (20 overs, 7.75 rpo)
V Kohli 68 (48) S Eranga 2-30
S Raina 34 (25) J Mendis 1-13
Sri Lanka: 116 all out (18 overs, 6.44 rpo)
A Mathews 31 (29) A Dinda 4-19
M Jayawardene 26 (19) I Pathan 3-27
India won by 39 runs
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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