Dhawan, Rahul fifties help India blitz Sri Lanka to take series 2-0

Sri Lanka's fate was all but sealed when India posted a gargantuan 201 - above-par even on a flat bed at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.

Saini uproots the stumps of Kusal Perera with a yorker.   -  Vivek Bendre

India’s middle-order ensured that the solid foundation laid by K.L. Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan didn’t go waste as Kohli’s men overwhelmed Sri Lanka by 78 runs in the final T20I and seal a 2-0 in the three-match series here on Friday.

Despite a stutter in the middle, when it lost four wickets in 13 balls, India dominated right from the start after being asked to bat first.

As it happened, 3rd T20I: India wins by 78 runs, claims series 2-0

With the hosts making three changes — Manish Pandey, Sanju Samson and Yuzvendra Chahal coming in for Shivam Dube, Rishabh Pant and Kuldeep Yadav — Rahul and Dhawan had to fire at the top. And the duo did just that once Dhawan was given a reprieve by Dasun Shanaka at deep square-leg when he was on one.

Rahul got going with a cover drive and a punch off Angelo Mathews’ gentle medium-pace in the second over before sweeping Dhananjaya de Silva over the square-leg fence in the fourth.

Dhawan and Rahul (L) put on a 97-run opening wicket stand to help set up India's win. Photo: VIVEK BENDRE

 

Exquisite strokes

Having raced past his partner, Rahul was soon joined by Dhawan, whose extraordinary whip off Lasith Malinga’s final ball of the fifth over was truly breathtaking; so was Kohli’s straight six off Mathews in the 17th over.

Between those two shots came Sri Lanka’s best passage of play. At 97 for no loss in the 11th over, and with Rahul and Dhawan in no mood to relent, Pandey and Samson were in danger of getting an opportunity to bat.

However, the two Sri Lankan wrist-spinners — chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan and leggie Wanindu Hasaranga — struck at regular intervals as India slipped to 122 for four in the 13th over.

Dhawan swept Sandakan straight to deep mid-wicket, giving Samson a chance to emerge from the dugout. The Kerala stylist stroked the first ball he faced over long-off for a six, but was trapped in front off the next — a googly from Hasaranga. Sandakan then surprised Rahul with a wrong ’un and wicketkeeper Kusal Perera whipped the bails off. Two deliveries later, Shreyas Iyer offered a return catch to Sandakan after hitting his first ball for four.

Kohli resurrected the innings with a 42-run partnership off 28 balls with Pandey before misjudging a second run and falling short of the crease. Pandey and Shardul then ensured India crossed the 200-run mark, the latter employing the long handle yet again.

After his late cameo with the bat, Thakur claimed two wickets with the ball. Photo: VIVEK BENDRE

Falling apart

Once India put on a gargantuan 201 for six — above-par even on a flat deck at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium — the fate of the Sri Lankans was all but sealed. The visitors couldn’t really give the 34,000-odd turnout a thrilling finish as the top-order departed in no time.

It was left to the experienced Mathews and the energetic Dhananjaya de Silva to repair the innings after the Indian pace triuo of Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini had reduced the team to 26 for four.

Mathews was severe on Washington, hammering the bowler for sixes before holing out to long-on off the same bowler with Pandey taking a superb running catch. Dhananjaya went on to complete a half-century — his second in T20Is — but that was not enough on a day when the islanders were thoroughly outclassed.

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