Sri Lanka begin tri-series with emphatic win

It is always a delight to win in front of the home crowd, especially playing against a cricketing giant like Team India. Sri Lanka deservedly achieved that joy in the inaugural match of the Nidahas Trophy, 2018. What Team India saw in Colombo, was a totally different side from what they saw in 2017. Sri Lanka had lost seven T20Is to Team India on the trot, but they were no longer the same team which succumbed to the pressure of playing against India.

Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to field as both sides were confident enough to make a good start, irrespective of the outcome at the toss. Team India had a fresh squad which included Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Vijay Shankar and Shardul Thakur. The energy was high and every one of them had a point to prove. However, Team India didn’t get the start they desired. Chameera bowled a fuller delivery just outside off, and Rohit Sharma tried to scoop it over the mid-off fielder, but instead, miscued the ball off the bottom part of his bat. Jeevan Mendis took a stunning catch running backwards from the mid-off position to send Rohit Sharma back to the pavilion for a duck. Soon after, Suresh Raina decided to go after the bowler, as he exposed all three stumps to give himself some room and missed the full-toss, which found the middle stump.

Manish Pandey walked in to accompany Shikhar Dhawan, as India were in need of an innings-steadying partnership. Pandey steadily accumulated runs at one end, while Dhawan made sure they didn’t let the run-rate dip. Together, they strung a partnership of 95 runs. Pandey was on 37 off 35 deliveries when he tried to go over long-on, but failed to generate any power behind the shot. Gunathilaka took an easy catch to bring back the balance in the match just before the on-set of the death overs. Together, they constructed a crucial partnership of 95 runs that got India’s innings back on track.

The other batsmen were struggling to find their feet while Dhawan passed the Lankan test with flying colours. With six fours and six sixes, Dhawan scored 90 runs before he lofted Gunathilaka’s delivery into the safe hands of Thisara Perera. Pant was struggling at the other end, and Sri Lanka pounced on that opportunity to bottle Team India’s flow of runs in the death overs. However, 14 runs from the last over helped Team India post a competitive total of 174 runs on a ground which has the average first innings score at 151 runs.

The Sri Lankan innings started with a fair bit of confidence, but the haste to score quick runs cost Kusal Mendis. Washington Sundar’s tossed up delivery got sliced off Mendis’ bat and Dhawan ran backwards to take a comfortable catch. Mendis’ wicket only meant to trigger the Lankan batsmen as they unleashed their explosive facet in the next over, bowled by Shardul Thakur. Kusal Perera thrashed him for 27 runs in the third over of the innings taking their total to 46 runs. The second-wicket stand amassed 70 runs in 5 overs before Unadkat provided the second breakthrough. Gunathilaka couldn’t read the cutter and chipped a catch to Rishabh Pant at mid-off.

Kusal Perera didn’t slow down, as he completed his half-century in just 22 balls. Chandimal could only accompany him for a while with a 28-run partnership, and he was cleaned up by Chahal. Another one of Sundar’s flighted deliveries did the trick, as Kusal Perera stepped out of the crease and missed it for Karthik to effect a stumping. Upul Tharanga couldn’t make any impact barring a six, and totally missed Chahal’s delivery while trying to sweep it, getting bowled.

38 runs were needed off the last five overs, as India saw an opportunity to stem the flow of runs and apply more pressure on the Lankans. The numbers made it look like an easy target, but the flow of the game was slightly inclined towards India. What looked like an easy win for Sri Lanka, became a thrilling encounter towards the end. The Indian bowlers pulled the game to attain the equilibrium, but it was probably too late to have any significant advantage in the game. Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka kept cool heads and finished the job in 18.3 overs. Perera unleashed his power in the 18th and the 19th over to get the job done for the hosts.

Sri Lanka will be proud of their all-round performance in the game. This win will help them erase the forgettable memories against India from last year. However, the rare loss for Team India shouldn’t affect their chances in the series, as they lock horns against the neighbours from the east, Bangladesh, on 8th March.



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