Even an Indian team missing several first-choice players had more than enough guns for the Lankans. After holding their own for a few overs with the ball after winning the toss, the visitors lost the plot to allow the Indians post a formidable total. A chase of 180 was always beyond the remit of the Islanders and they were never in the game, despite dew expected to make life difficult for the bowlers, especially the two wrist spinners, and fielders.
Auditioning for Test job
Tonking journeymen bowlers all over the place in a Twenty20 Internationals can hardly be preparation for facing Steyn, Rabada, Morkel and Philander in a Test match in South Africa. But KL Rahul cannot afford to be choosy. Having been administered the team management’s version of cricket rationing in recent times, the Karnataka batsman needs to impress in whatever opportunities he gets to break the think tank’s favoured opening combination of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan for the first Test in Cape Town starting January 5. The Sri Lankan bowlers were never going to be much of a challenge for Rahul, who tore into the likes of Thisara Perera, Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep. When he was hit on the inside of the thigh by a ball from Angelo Mathews, Rahul responded with a six over deep square-leg the very next delivery.
Skipper Rohit Sharma seemed in sublime touch at the start, but after he was out going for an over-ambitious shot, Rahul took charge with Shreyas Iyer content to play a supporting role. He exploited the Powerplay and later expertly found gaps whenever the bowlers erred either side of the wicket. Rahul got out attempting an agricultural hoick across the line against Perera. He had scored 61 off 48 balls, and it was only the 15th over. Given the standard of the Sri Lankan bowling on display, a second T20I hundred was possible if he stayed till the end. The South Africans are unlikely to be so obliging, though.
Manish Pandey had shuffled across his stumps, expecting a wide yorker. He had got into a baseball-style hitting position. But what came out of Nuwan Pradeep’s hand turned out to be a chest-high beamer. Pandey would have been taken aback at first, but gathered his wits quickly enough to glide the delivery over third man for six. After a good start, India became rather stagnant at one point, reaching 119/3 in 16 overs. The previous four overs had brought only 21 runs, with the loss of two wickets.
But what followed in the last four overs showed that Mahendra Singh Dhoni still has it in him while Pandey is a dangerous customer, capable of finding unprotected corners of the field. The 17th over of the innings, bowled by Chameera went for 19 runs. Dhoni came down the wicket and swung a short delivery to the midwicket fence. His partner then sent a length ball over midwicket and found the fence off an over-pitched delivery outside off-stump. Dhoni then showed there is more to his game than brute power, when he deflected a Perera delivery past short fine-leg for a boundary.
The 19th over, bowled by Pradeep, was when the wheels fell off the Lankan effort. It included two wides and the aforementioned beamer, called a no-ball which brought a free hit. Dhoni hit a low full toss to the midwicket fence, while Pandey utilised the free hit for a boundary through cover. The over yielded 21 runs. The last over was a decent one from Perera, until Dhoni heaved the last ball, another low full toss into the crowd. The final four overs had brought 61 runs, putting India in a commanding position.
Spin twins at it again
Despite Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav having played quite a few limited-overs games together for India by now, two wrist spinners in the same side is still a novelty for many teams. At least, the Lankans made it feel that way. Just three days after they were bamboozled in the ODI series decider at Vizag, the Islanders showed they had learnt precious little on how to tackle the deadly duo. Eight overs between them cost just 41 runs and yielded six wickets, resulting in the visitors being bowled out for just 87 in 16 overs.
Upul Tharanga was caught down the leg-side off Chahal. Mathews was deceived in flight and hit a catch back to the bowler, while Asela Gunaratne and Perera fell victim to the now familiar combination, stumped Dhoni, bowled Chahal. Not to be outdone, Yadav lured two batsmen.