Clinical India mauls Sri Lanka

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's unbeaten 22-ball 39 and four dismissals behind the stumps hogged the limelight as India thrashed Sri Lanka by 93 runs in the first match of the T20 series on Wednesday.

India wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sends one out of the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the king of limited overs cricket, period.

The charismatic wicketkeeper-batsman put a serious question mark over the judgement of those who questioned his place in the Indian T20 side with his unbeaten 22-ball 39 and four dismissals behind the stumps as India thrashed Sri Lanka by 93 runs in the first match of the T20 series on Wednesday.

Scorecard and as it happened

In challenging conditions at the Barabati Stadium here, India, inserted in, banked on opener K.L. Rahul's superb half-century to post a formidable 180 for three and benefitted from Yuzvendra Chahal's four-wicket haul to bundle out the tourists for 87 in 16 overs.

The narrative stood firmly on Dhoni's heroics.

 

When Dhoni came in to bat at 101 for two in the 13th over, India had a task at hand. The set Rahul departed sooner than later, leaving Dhoni a Manish Pandey to do the familiar finishing job they were adept at.

 

The duo made no mistake as they plundered 68 runs for an unbroken fourth wicket stand in a clinical fashion as India made a significant leap from 112 for three in the 15th over.

Dhoni, who was welcomed by a packed house glittering with mobile lights, played some of his trademark shots, including a bullet like straight drive. The former captain's entertaining knock reminded one of his 256-run partnership with Yuvraj Singh in the second one-dayer against England at the same venue in January.

 

Pandey also resorted to his typical breathtaking act of clubbing the bowlers in his 18-ball 32, studded with a hoist over mid-wicket and an attempted yorker over third man off the 19th over, which cost Nuwan Pradeep 21 runs.

Dhoni responded to his fans' admiration and critics' opinions in one blow — finishing off the Indian innings with a massive six over mid-wicket off Perera.

It was Rahul, who survived an lbw decision on 23 following a DRS referral, who laid the platform for Dhoni and Pandey with a brilliant 48-ball 61. The graceful opener in Tests turned a versatile stroke-maker as he took the aerial route to punish the erring Lankan bowlers. He celebrated his return to the T20 side by bringing up his second half-century.

 

Rahul impressed the most with his majestic pulls, including a six off Angelo Mathews over square leg. He added 63 runs with an able Shreyas Iyer (24) before missing the line to a slower one from Thisara Perera.

Perera used five bowlers in the first six overs but leaked 50 runs for the wicket of Rohit Sharma.

The lack of discipline, especially when it was hard to grip the ball due to a thick layer of dew, did not help the Lankan bowlers, who gifted away plenty of full tosses.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was too quick for Asela Gunaratne.   -  K.R. Deepak

 

Determined to start the T20 series on a positive note, India opted to entrust the responsibility on the experienced ones. Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who got his second match after his T20 debut in June 2016, scalped Niroshan Dickwella in the second over to earn his first wicket in the format.

With the ball creating doubts on a two-paced pitch, the Indian spinners severely tested the Lankan batsmen. Chahal bambozoled four of them — Upul Tharanga, Mathews, Asela Gunaratne and Perera ­— with the lack of turn, while Kuldeep Yadav had two — Kusal Perera and Dasun Shanaka.

 

But the spinners owed their success to the smart glove work by the reliable Dhoni, who effected two catches and as many stumpings to break Sri Lanka's backbone.

Hardik Pandya polished off the tail to complete the formalities.