Inspired by Virat Kohli with the bat and Irfan Pathan and Ashok Dinda with the ball, India completed their limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka with a thumping 39-run win in the one-off T20 in Pallekele on Tuesday.
Kohli's maiden Twenty20 half-century set up a match-winning total of 155 and the Sri Lankans were never in the chase after losing three wickets early to Irfan. They were eventually bowled out for 116 in a dramatic triple-wicket maiden 18th over from Dinda, giving him career-best figures of 4 for 19.
Sri Lanka's run-chase faltered from the start. Tillakaratne Dilshan was bowled first ball by Irfan, who sent back Upul Tharanga in the third over, steering an easy catch to Suresh Raina at first slip. That wicket took Irfan past Harbhajan Singh as India's leading wicket-taker in Twenty20 internationals. Mahela Jayawardene briefly threatened with four fours in Umesh Yadav's second over, but was adjudged lbw for 26 to Irfan his 20th wicket in the format.
From here on Sri Lanka's innings blew hot and cold, with India taking wickets at key intervals before Dinda's final flourish. Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne played a few lusty blows in in a 33-run stand for the fourth wicket before the latter was bowled by R Ashwin for 20. Mathews then added 28 with Jeevan Mendis, but once the pair was extracted in consecutive overs the end was near. Needing 40 from 18 balls, Sri Lanka gave up three wickets to the accurate and surprisingly nippy Dinda to collapse to defeat.
Earlier, having been put in to bat by Jayawardene, India posted 155 for 3 with Kohli starring with a robust 48-ball 68. The in-form batsman walked out to join Ajinkya Rahane in the second after Shaminda Eranga, the right-arm seamer, became the first bowler to take a wicket in his first over on debut in all three formats. His maiden Twenty20 wicket was that of Gautam Gambhir, bowled for 6 attempting a big shot across the line.
Kohli has been in imperious form on tour and it was evident as he began with an array of shots. He opened his account with consecutive fours off Mathews in the third over and then targeted the debutant, swatting him for three boundaries in the fourth over. Three successive fours off Thisara Perera in the sixth over raised India's 50; at the other end Rahane was on 5 off seven balls.
Kohli breezed past his previous Twenty20 best of 31 and motored to fifty off 32 balls. Rahane broke free with a lofted six over extra cover but fell for 21 in the 12th over, which ended with Kohli smoking Mendis for six.
India slowed a little after that wicket, but once Kohli departed in the 17th over to Erange the innings lost steam. TRaina hit three fours and a six in his unbeaten 34 off 25 balls but Dhoni could only manage 16 from 14. A total of 155 seemed decidedly under-par considering where they had been with Kohli at the crease, but in the end it proved much too far a target for Sri Lanka to scale.
The preceding five-ODI series to this match was claimed by Dhoni's men 4-1.