India survived some early scares to emerge victorious from the fourth match of the T20 Tri-Series at Colombo.
In the final analysis, it was a cruise for India. A smooth six-wicket victory takes them to the top of the three-team table and they have Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthjik to thank for it.
Both men were unbeaten as the 152-run target was surpassed with nine deliveries remaining, their 68-run partnership – the highest of the match – icing the victory to leave Sri Lanka frustrated by a number of missed opportunities with the bat.
At the halfway point of Sri Lanka's innings, with the rejuvenated Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga rattling along, the home side had been in a promising position. But in the 11th over, with the score on 96 and the partnership standing at 62, Tharanga was bowled by Vijay Shankar, precipitating a mini-collapse from which they could not recover.
Tharanga's wicket brought Thisara Perera to the crease, but after launching a pair of sixes – one over long-off and another over deep-square – Perera fell to a slog off the naggingly accurate Shardul Thakur.
And when Jeevan Mendis followed, bowled by the off-break bowler Washington Sundar – whose four overs yielded 2/21, to go with his 2/28 and 0/23 from earlier matches – the homes side's innings had hit the skids. When Kusal Mendis went to Yuzvendra Chahal for 55, the innings had subsided completely.
After scoring 94/2 in their first 10 overs, Sri Lanka have made just 58/7 in their next 9.— ICC (@ICC) March 12, 2018
Good comeback by India, can they finish the job? They need 153 in 19 overs to win.
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India's reply stuttered initially. The garlanded openers Shikhar Dhawan (8) and Rohit Sharma (11) failed to make an impact, and when Lokesh Rahul followed the dashing Suresh Raina back to the pavilion – the former in bizarre fashion, treading onto his stumps – India were tottering, four down for 85 at the halfway point.
KL Rahul's trodden on his stumps! You don't see that every day.— ICC (@ICC) March 12, 2018
India need 68 runs off 9 overs with six wickets in hand.
Has that stroke of luck given Sri Lanka a sniff?
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Despite the mini-wobble, Pandey and Karthik eased any anxieties, scampering through the second half of the innings with absolute assurance, ensuring the run rate never got above eight-per-over and taking India to their victory target with an over and a half to spare.
For Sharma, stand-in skipper while Virat Kohli convalesces, the nature of the victory will please him: players on the margins of the first-choice XI are stepping up, and none more than Thakur, whose four good wickets deservedly bagged him the Player of the Match award.
Bangladesh take on India on Wednesday in the fifth match of the series. The final will be played on Sunday.