Colombo: India edged ahead of the competition in the Nidahas Trophy, beating Sri Lanka comfortably in a rain-reduced match that ended deep into Monday night.
Although the start of play was delayed by 80 minutes by an evening drizzle, only one over was reduced and Sri Lanka’s 152 for 9 from 19 overs presented India with a straightforward chase.
When Rohit Sharma won the toss and put Sri Lanka in, there was plenty to celebrate for the 35,000 who had waited patiently for play to get underway. Kusal Mendis was at his clean-hitting best, pouncing on anything short and hitting the ball deep into the stands over the leg side.
The bonus for India was that Kusal Perera fell early, attempting to break the shackles imposed by Washington Sundar, a reverse sweep trickling back onto the stumps. Danushka Gunathilaka had already fallen and it was left to Upul Tharanga to provide Mendis company.
As Mendis hit the ball to all parts of the ground, Tharanga struggled to get going, contributing only 22 in a 62-run third-wicket stand before being bowled by Vijay Shankar.
From 96 for 2, Sri Lanka then collapsed spectacularly, losing seven wickets for the addition of only 56 runs. What’s more, the momentum was sucked out of their innings, leading to a score that was well below par. Washington Sundar was wonderfully restrictive once more, picking up 2 for 21 from his four overs, and Shardul Thakur made the most of a brittle Sri Lankan line-up, bagging 4 for 27 from his four overs.
When the chase began there appeared to be extra trouble for Sri Lanka as Rohit, who has failed to get going in this tournament, imperiously launched a Suranga Lakmal short ball into the stands over midwicket. The next ball disappeared for four and there was an ominous air about the Indian captain at the crease.
But, doing exactly the job Sundar had, Akila Dananjaya picked up Rohit, a pull finding the midwicket fielder. Shekhar Dhawan endured his first Twenty20 International failure in 2018, lobbing a simple catch to mid-on off Dananjaya.
India wobbled, but the lack of scoreboard pressure meant that batsmen could play out the trickiest bowlers – Dananjaya was seen off for 21 from his four overs – as Suresh Raina and KL Rahul rebuilt.
Even the fall of Rahul, hit wicket as he trod on to his stumps while setting off for a single against Jeevan Mendis, did not make much of a difference. Manish Pandey, taking over from his Karnataka team-mate, took his time to get set and once he did, treated the crowd to some shot-making of the highest order. Pandey walked India over the target with nine balls and six wickets to spare, unbeaten on 42 with Dinesh Karthik (39 not out) for company.
Sri Lanka had come into the game a batsman short, choosing to play Lakmal in place of the suspended Dinesh Chandimal, and paid the price for doing so.