The surface at Holkar Stadium has been a batting paradise. It is one venue in India alongside M Chinnaswamy where boundaries tend to flow in abundance. But Sri Lanka, up against an Indian attack bolstered by the return of Jasprit Bumrah, put on a stupendous show. They managed only 142/9 in their 20 overs in their second T20I against the Men in Blue. With bowlers putting up another commanding performance, the batsmen romped home in 17.3 overs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
With dew expected later in the evening, India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and put Sri Lanka in, well aware that no target is beyond their reach. Although Bumrah’s return hogged the limelight, it was Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini who called the shots. In the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar — all first-choices in the XI — Thakur and Saini showed they are match-ready.
Although spinners Washington Sundar and Kuldeep Yadav took out three of Sri Lanka’s top-four, Saini created the pressure. Touching 151 kmph and executing cunning changes of space, the speedster was on the ball from word go. With Lanka struggling for momentum against the strapping pacer, they targeted the spinners, only to lose wickets while going for big hits.
If Saini did the job at the top, Thakur, his knuckleballs and his variations took care of the lower-order, who just couldn’t find the boundaries at the death. They left India only 143 to chase.The target was always going to be walk in the park for the hosts, unless they lost their top-order early. But with KL Rahul in top form, India were off the blocks in no time as they scored 54 runs in the powerplay.
“This was a clinical performance, and that’s how we want to build on each series,” said Kohli after the match. “We have ticked a few more boxes this time. Brilliant from Navdeep. He has done well in ODI cricket, and he’s bowling well in T20s, with experienced guys like Jasprit, Bhuvi and Shardul. It’s a really good sign for the team.”
There was a question as to who among Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan will make way once Rohit Sharma is back. The former gave enough indications as to why he is the one India have to retain going forward.
Clean hits and ability to hit boundaries has earned Rahul enough success in the format. And he continued to bat with same kind of freedom. Though he couldn’t covert his start (45) into a big one, Dhawan (32), Shreyas Iyer (34), Kohli (30) ensured that India head to Pune with the another series in their sights.
Sri Lanka 142/9 in 20 ovs (Kusal 34; Thakur 3/23, Saini 2/18, Kuldeep 2/38) lost to India 144/3 in 17.3 ovs (Rahul 45, Iyer 34, Dhawan 32, Kohli 30 n.o; De Silva 2/30).