India recovered from an opening upset loss to record an emphatic 69-run victory over Sri Lanka in Ranchi and level up their Twenty20 international series heading into a now decisive match on Sunday. Having struggled in Pune on Monday, this time India’s batsmen all played their part, with Shikhar Dhawan leading the way with 51 off just 25 balls en route to a total of 196 for 6. Already facing a sizable task, Sri Lanka got off to the worst possible start in their chase, losing a wicket in the first two overs. They finally sunk to 127 for nine to give India their third biggest victory in cricket’s shortest format.
With the victory, India will hope to have regained some of the momentum lost in Pune. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s T20 squad went into the home series fresh from a morale-boosting 3-0 series clean sweep over Australia Down Under. Yet an inexperienced Sri Lanka lineup, and in particular a raw bowling attack, had provided a wakeup call to India just ahead of the T20 Asia Cup and the World Twenty20 on home soil.
But whereas India were guilty of being overly aggressive on a pitch that offered the bowlers some encouragement in Pune, this time the batsmen gained the ascendency from the off. The half-century for Dhawan, his first in Twenty20 internationals, was a particular positive, as the 30-year-old helped to put on a 75-run opening partnership with Rohit Sharma. By the time the partnership was broken up, when Dhawan’s wicket was taken by Dusmantha Chameera, the seventh over had only just been reached.
Given that start, there may have been some disappointment that India didn’t crash through the 200 mark. Yet India were slowed, in large part due to just the fourth-ever hat-trick in Twenty20 internationals from Thishara Penera. Despite that achievement, overall it was a much tougher day for Sri Lanka’s young bowlers, particularly Kasun Rajitha. After taking three wickets on his debut on Monday, the 22-year-old this time went wicket-less, while being hit for 45 runs from his four overs. In the end, India still finished with their sixth highest total in cricket’s shortest format.
The tourists were again playing without the experienced duo of Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews because of injury. But they did have another veteran back, thanks to Tillakaratne Dilshan overcoming a hand injury. His return provided little comfort, however. The 39-year-old was dismissed on the first ball of Sri Lanka’s reply, after Dhoni stumped him off a delivery from Ravichandran Ashwin. In the first ball of the second over, Sri Lanka’s innings was really on the ropes when their other opener, Danushka Gunathilaka, was caught by Dhoni off the bowling of Ashish Nehra.
While the middle order was able to steady the ship they never got close to a run-rate that put India’s total in jeopardy. Ashwin reveled in the more spin-friendly conditions taking three wickets for just 14 runs, before Jasprit Bumrah continued his impressive introduction to international cricket by coming on to take two late wickets. Sri Lanka finished with a wicket in hand, but a long way short of what was required to leave the series to go down to its finale in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.