Batting muscle helps India restore parity

Shikhar Dhawan’s belligerent maiden T20I half-century earned him the Man of the Match award © Associated Press

On a dry surface in a dusty Ranchi ground, India’s top order moved into customary home form, and their bowlers exposed a fragile Sri Lanka top order. Shikhar Dhawan was bruiser-in-prime, unleashing an early shellacking that brought him 51, and set the team on course to a big total. They reached 196 for 6, thanks to helpful hands from the top five, which today included a pinch-hitting Hardik Pandya. That total was 69 too many for Sri Lanka.

Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina and Pandya all got to at least 25 – Pandya the quickest of the lot, striking two sixes and a four in his 12-ball 27. On a pitch with little pace and minimal seam movement, the pacers that had delivered Sri Lanka’s Pune win, were expensive. Even Sri Lanka’s first T20 international hat-trick – to Thisara Perera – barely made a difference, coming as it did in the penultimate over. Dinesh Chandimal will perhaps rue having chosen to bowl first. The track looked a good one for batting, and Sri Lanka have lately been a modest chasing side.

R Ashwin had troubled Sri Lanka’s batsmen even on the Pune green top, and MS Dhoni savvily had him open the bowling here. Ashwin removed a returning Tillakaratne Dilshan second ball, and the chase never really recovered from that. Soon they were 3 for 16, Ashish Nehra claiming two early scalps. Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara then embarked on a recovery that was far too slow to give the visitors any real chance of victory, and wickets tumbled late in the middle overs, as the required rate crept up through the teens. Ashwin finished with 3 for 14 from his four overs.

Rajitha had begun his second T20 much worse than his first, spraying the first ball wide for Rohit Sharma to crash behind point, and the bowler’s evening did not improve much from there. Dhawan cracked four offside fours off his next over – the fourth of the match – to send the innings into overdrive, having already picked up legside sixes off Thisara and Sachithra Senanayake. Dhawan hit four more boundaries before the end of the Powerplay, as he clobbered spin and seam square of the wicket, largely on the legside. After six overs, India had sped to 70 – Dhawan’s share of that score 48 off 21.

He got to 50 off his 22nd delivery, but departed soon after, nicking a throat-high Dushmantha Chameera ball to the keeper. That wicket bought Sri Lanka brief respite. They bowled five overs for 30, before the runs began to flow again.

Chameera claimed Rohit’s scalp in the 14th over, with an athletic return catch, and Senanayake removed Rahane soon after, but India’s final push began when Pandya arrived at the crease a few places higher than he would normally bat. After two sighters he began his assault. Rajitha was struck to the midwicket boundary, before consecutive Senanayake deliveries were lifted high over deep midwicket.

Raina added his own finishing blows to the closing surge, taking particular liking to Chameera, whose figures he ruined. Having sent down his first two overs for 10 runs, Chameera saw his third disappear for 18. His last also went for 10. In between Perera took a low-key hat-trick, having Pandya, Raina and Yuvraj Singh hole out to low full tosses. His figures were dramatically improved as a result. He finished with 3 for 33 from three overs.

Dilshan was stumped over-reaching off the first ball he faced. Seekkuge Prasanna was sent up the order to provide some early impetus, but lacked the technique to deal with the new ball, and chewed up four balls for one run. Danushka Gunathilaka amplified Sri Lanka’s problems at the top of the order with another poor score.

Kapugedara and Chandimal’s 49-ball fourth-wicket partnership yielded only 52 runs. By the time they had departed, off successive Jadeja deliveries in the 12th over, the required rate had climbed to more than 14.5, and the chase was kaput. Dasun Shanaka and Milinda Siriwardana struck some late sixes, doing good to at least their own batting confidence, if nothing much for the team cause.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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