It was an excellent performance from the Indians that took them to a convincing six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the fourth match of the Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 International tri-series in Colombo on Monday.
The bowlers, with Washington Sundar (2/21) and Shardul Thakur (4/27) taking the lead, put in a great show to stop Sri Lanka at 152/9 in what became a 19-overs-a-side contest after a rain delay at the start. There was a wobble at the beginning of the Indian reply, but Suresh Raina and KL Rahul played good hands before Manish Pandey (41*) and Dinesh Karthik (39*) finished the job with nine balls left in the chase.
“It was a very smart performance, from the bowlers especially. To restrict a batting unit like that was a great effort,” gushed Rohit Sharma, the India captain. “What we spoke about, we came out and delivered. There was a bit of dew on the ground, so it wasn’t easy for the spinners or the fast bowlers. But they stuck to the task and delivered the goods.
“They have done it in the past and it was just a matter of continuing the good work we did against Bangladesh.”
Returning the best figures for India was Shardul Thakur. His wickets included Danushka Gunathilaka at the start, to a stunning catch by Raina, as well as Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera, which made him the Player of the Match.
“I just loved it,” said Thakur afterwards. “I am very happy to receive this award. I always dreamt of winning games for India, and here it is today. There was nervousness not pressure. I always love challenges. This was a challenge in this series too, with the seniors rested. I am happy I did my job.”
The job Thakur referred to had to do with preventing Sri Lanka from getting anywhere close to 170-180, considered a par score on what was a pitch made for run scoring.
Perera, leading Sri Lanka in the absence of the suspended Dinesh Chandimal, agreed.
“It was not a 150 wicket, it was a beautiful wicket to bat on. Our batting line-up did well at the start but our batting, including me, we couldn’t execute in the middle period, which was a mistake. If we had 175, it would have been different,” said Perera, adding that though Sri Lanka had lost two in a row after winning the first game of the series, he was confident that there was enough in the tank to get into the final.
What did the trick for India was also that the bowlers didn’t let partnerships develop. Sri Lanka did get a decent start, scoring 53/2 in the Powerplay and then getting to 94/2 after 10 overs. But the last nine overs went for just 58 runs and saw seven wickets falling.
“That’s the whole point of T20 cricket – you have to find a way to pick up wickets every now and then,” pointed out Sharma. “We came out and did that. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to do it. We talked about many things, and it was very much on display for everyone to watch.”
Once the bowlers were done, it was over to the batsmen. And though Sharma himself and Shikhar Dhawan fell with only 22 runs on the board, and Rahul (18) and Raina (27) fell at a tricky point in the game, Pandey and Karthik did well to complete the task.
“We bat really deep,” said Sharma. Probably we haven’t had a batting line up like that in a long, long time. We play two all-rounders. The middle-order hasn’t batted much in the recent months. Today, it was the perfect example. The way Manish and Dinesh finished off the game was crucial for us.”
The next match in the series will be played between Bangladesh and India on Wednesday.