It wasn’t the typical batting paradise dished out at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Sunday, but the Indian batsmen ensured that they kept calm and showed application to take the hosts home with 5 wickets in the bag and inflict a series whitewash on the Sri Lankans in the three-match T20I series. The batsmen needed to grind it out and that is just what the Indians did after Jaydev Unadkat led the show with the ball to restrict the visitors to 135/7 in their 20 overs.
Chasing 136, the Indians started off poorly with KL Rahul walking back to the dugout in the 4th over with Dushmantha Chameera catching Rahul (4) on the pads. The Indian opener did go for a review, but the decision stayed with the on-field umpire and that was reason to celebrate for the Lankans. Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma (27) too perished trying to up the ante as the Indian batting suddenly looked out of answers on a pitch helping the bowlers under lights.
While Rahul and Rohit seemed like they were frustrated and looked to hit out of the situation, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey looked like they were happy to stand ground and wait for the bad deliveries. The small target also helped India’s cause as there was no need for the duo to take any undue pressure. They were happy to pick the singles and wait for the bad balls to send to the cleaners.
But the 42-run partnership between the two ended against the run of play as a straight drive from Pandey caught Dananjaya’s finger-tip and hit the stump at the non-striker’s end to catch Iyer (30) short of his crease. With 55 needed off 40 balls, Hardik Pandya came in to join Pandey.
Even though Hardik looked like he was on a mission, a false shot off Shanaka saw him walk back to the dugout for just 4. With the game still very much in the balance, in walked Dinesh Karthik. The decision seemed a bit strange considering that MS Dhoni was still in the dressing room, but looked like it was aimed to give the batsman some opportunity in the middle.
But Pandey looked in terrific form as he kept hitting the timely boundaries to keep away the pressure off Karthik. Yet, with 4 overs left, Chameera got the better of Manish Pandey (32) to bring Dhoni into the wicket as 28 runs were required off 23 balls.
From there, it was all about Dhoni and Karthik holding fort and taking the hosts home. A six off the last ball of the 19th over from Karthik meant India needed just 3 off the last over. While Karthik finished on 18, Dhoni was unbeaten on 16.
Earlier, it was a terrible start for the Lankans after Rohit won the toss and decided to go for a bowl after batting first in the first two games. Mohammed Siraj came in for the rested Jasprit Bumrah and Washington Sundar was handed a debut as Yuzvendra Chahal was also asked to take a break. While Sundar started proceedings, it was Unadkat who picked the first wicket — Niroshan Dickwella (1) caught by Siraj.
Sundar struck in the very next over as he had Kusal Perera (4) caught and bowled as the ball stopped slightly on the batsman. With the score reading 14/2, the Indians looked on top of their game. But Unadkat was not done yet as he then sent back Upul Tharanga (11), caught beautifully by Hardik Pandya. With the score at 18/3, Sadeera Samarawickrama joined Asela Gunaratne and the two looked to steady the ship.
They were going well before Samarawickrama (21) hit Pandya straight to Dinesh Karthik and the fielder wasn’t going to drop that one. With the going tough, things went from bad to worse as Danushka Gunathilaka (3) hit a full-blooded sweep off Kuldeep Yadav straight to Pandya at deep mid-wicket. The score read 72/5.
Thisara Perera (11) gifted Siraj a wicket as a half-hearted flick from the Lanka skipper went straight to Rohit Sharma at short mid-wicket. With the score on 85/6 in the 13th over, it was clear that this was going to be a match where the Indians would have to chase a smallish target by the general Wankhede standards.
But Gunaratne looked like he had things in control. Yet, he too went against the run of play as Kuldeep Yadav returned the favour to Kuldeep and took an easy catch running a few steps at mid-wicket. With Gunaratne (36) gone, it was left on Shanaka (29*) and Akila Dananjaya (11*) to finish well. They finally managed to score 18 runs off the final over from Siraj to finish on 135/7.