India whitewash Sri Lanka, take series 3-0

In what was the last game of the tour for Sri Lanka, they would have hoped to leave the country with a bang by winning the final T20I and salvaging some pride. Sri Lanka were restricted to an average score, but had something to defend. Since the Dharamsala act in the ODIs, their bowlers put up a good show for the first time in the two limited overs series. They stretched India right till the end, and picked up wickets at regular intervals to give India a run for their money. However, the Indian batsmen didn’t succumb under pressure and went past the finish line to take the series 3-0.

Wahsington Sundar was handed his T20I debut, while Mohammed Siraj was awarded his second T20I of his career. The duo came in to replace Yuzvendra Chahal & Jasprit Bumrah who were rewarded with rest. Sri Lanka couldn’t get off to a decent start, as Niroshan Dickwella succumbed to Jaydev Unadkat for the third consecutive time in the series. The south-paw handed a simple return catch to Unadkat, who outsmarted him in all the three games. Soon after, Sundar got his first wicket, that of the dangerous Kusal Perera.

Unadkat’s intelligent bowling gave him another wicket in his first spell itself. Another one of Sri Lanka’s in-form batsman, Upul Tharanga played a half-hearted shot, finding the man in the deep. A tiny partnership budded between Sadira Samarawickrama and Asela Gunaratne as they got Sri Lanka’s run-rate over the 6-run mark.

Mohammed Siraj, who didn’t have a good outing on his debut, took some punishment at the hands of the Lankan pair, and didn’t have the best of starts to his spell. It took Hardik Pandya to break the rising stand, as Samarawickrama fell to a shortish ball. Kuldeep got into the action when he dismissed Gunathilaka cheaply in the 12th over. Sri Lanka’s innings were going nowhere at this tage.

The Lankan skipper who has had a bad series with the bat, started well as he dispatched Siraj for two boundaries to get his innings going. However, on the last ball of Siraj’s second spell, the Hyderababdi bowler got a sigh of relief when he picked up Perera’s wicket.

Dasun Shanaka and Asela Gunaratne looked to keep the wickets intact and let Sri Lanka complete the whole quota of 20 overs. While the latter rotated strike, the former played a few attacking strokes to take Sri Lanka’s score past 100.

Pandya got his second wicket when some sharp bounce led to the outdoing of fellow MI team-mate, Gunaratne. Shanaka looked to find his timing on point, just at the right moment. In the final over, he took Siraj for two fours and a six to take the team’s total to 135/7 in 20 overs. The Lankans at least had something to bowl at.

The Indian openers couldn’t get off to a breezy start with Akila Dananjaya bowling a tight first over. The ball was moving around and bouncing a bit as well early on, and India were forced to get off to a cautious start. For a large part of the Powerplay and beyond the run-rate was a shade under six.

KL Rahul was trapped in front by Chameera. The batsman opted for the review, but the umpire’s call prevailed as the ball was clipping the top of the stumps. Rohit Sharma played a few pretty strokes, but couldn’t carry on from where he left off in Indore. He lost his wicket right after the Powerplay, when he pulled one off Shanaka to deep mid-wicket, to get out on 27.

Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer took their time! They played out a few dot balls and missed a few as well. The Lankans felt they had a sniff at the game, at this stage. The required run-rate kept climbing, as Iyer and Pandey’s patience was being tested. The duo took India beyond 50, but the run-rate was still under 6 runs to the over.

Shreyas Iyer was run out in the most unfortunate manner when Pandey smashed one straight back at Dananjaya, who stretched his hand out. The ball kissed the hand and went on to the stumps at the non-striker’s end. Iyer was yards out of his crease and had to make the walk back. Hardik Pandya couldn’t stay out in the centre for long as he handed a simple catch to the keeper, when he looked to play an upper-cut.

Manish Pandey was playing a gem of a knock at one end. He didn’t get perturbed by the fall of Iyer and Pandya. He picked off a boundary an over to keep a check on the required rate. Just when it looked like Pandey had it all under control, Chameera gave Sri Lanka more hope when he bowled the batsman on the first ball of the 17th over. Pandey departed on 29.

Karthik & MS Dhoni kept the scoreboard ticking and didn’t let the pressure get to them. Dhoni even survived a close lbw shout, when the Lankans used their review. The ball was going over the stumps, and Dhoni continued to stay calm in the final overs.

India needed 15 runs off the final two overs, i.e. 12 balls! Nuwan Pradeep bowled the penultimate over, and started it well. However, it ended with a big six off a full toss to take India closer to the victory. With less than a run-a-ball needed in the final over, Dhoni finished it off with a couple and a boundary to whitewash Sri Lanka.

After being thrashed in the first two T20Is, Sri Lanka managed to put up an even fight in the final game, and should be proud of how their bowlers performed. However, it was the Indian batsmen who kept a cool head under pressure. The 31-run stand between Karthik & Dhoni took India over the line. India’s domestic season ended on a high, as India remained unbeaten in across formats, against Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. They will embark on the tour to South Africa for a Test series first up.

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