There were forecasts of rain, but on Saturday evening, the weather did not play spoilsport as India rode on Shreyas Iyer’s unbeaten 74 to defeat Sri Lanka by seven wickets and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match T20I series.
With the hill town witnessing spells of showers till morning, there was uncertainty over the fate of the game. However, as the day panned out, the skies cleared up, allowing the local cricket fans to enjoy an international fixture after two years at the picturesque HPCA Stadium.
And, with Iyer around, there was never a dull moment.
A couple of days after scoring an unbeaten 57 in the series opener in Lucknow, Iyer brought up his second consecutive half-century in the series as India chased down 184, quite comfortably.
After Pathum Nissanka’s 75 and Dasun Shanaka’s unbeaten 47 guided Sri Lanka to 183-5, India got off to a jittery start as captain Rohit Sharma was played on for a solitary run. Looking to dab down Dushmantha Chameera’s length ball outside the off stump, the India captain saw his stumps being rattled.
As Rohit walked back, shaking his head in disbelief, Iyer walked in and tried to forge a partnership with Ishan Kishan (16, 15b; 2x4). They added 35 runs before Ishan fell to Lahiru Kumara offering an easy catch to Shanaka at mid-on.
With two wickets gone, Iyer and Sanju Samson (39, 25b; 2x4, 3x6) added 84 runs for the third wicket, which eventually paved the way for India’s victory. After starting slow, Samson went after Kumara in the 13th over, hammering him for three sixes and a boundary. A stunning one-handed catch by Binura Fernando at short third, however, ended Samson's stay at the crease.
With seven overs remaining and 56 runs to chase, Iyer got the backing of Ravindra Jadeja, who hammered a quickfire 45 off 18. Coming in at a time when things could have gone haywire, Jadeja hit seven fours and a six to ensure India did not lose the plot.
Earlier, India fielded an unchanged side and put Sri Lanka in to bat. But that move did not quite work in its favour as the visiting team got off to a decent start with openers Nissanka and Danushka Gunathilaka (38, 29b; 4x4, 2x6) forging a 67-run stand.
In the ninth over, Gunathilaka hit Jadeja for a six, following it up with a boundary. The third delivery went over the rope again. Aiming for a big hit in the fourth delivery too, Gunathilaka went for another slog sweep, only to get a top-edge. The ball went towards long-on, and Venkatesh Iyer dived in to give India its first breakthrough.
A slip-up in the middle-order cost the visiting team three quick wickets of Charith Asalanka, Kamil Mishara and Dinesh Chandimal. Struggling at 102-4, Sri Lanka, however, bounced back with Nissanka and Shanaka stitching a 58-run stand for the fifth wicket.
By the time Nissanka was trapped leg-before by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the team had crossed the 160-run mark, with just an over remaining. In the final over, Sri Lanka picked up 23 runs. But it was not enough in the end.
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