After losing the plot, especially with the bat, on Tuesday night, India made a strong comeback to the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka in Ranchi, with a performance that can be best termed ‘clinical’.
Led by Shikhar Dhawan, who has in recent times has given blazing starts for the team, along with Rohit Sharma and middle-order cameos from Suresh Raina and Hardik Pandya, the hosts posted a huge score in their first innings before the bowlers took over to help India win by 69 runs and take the series into the decider in Vizag on Sunday.
From an Indian perspective, the emphasis will once again be on the batting. As mentioned, Dhawan has given the team the early impetus in recent times and along with Rohit Sharma has certainly made the job easy for the middle-order. As he admitted on Friday, the duo complement one another very well and if they can turn it on again on Sunday, India will be well on their way.
Suresh Raina looked good on Friday, playing sensibly at a stage when the team required a partnership so did Hardik Pandya, who made full use of his elevation to Number 5, spanking a 12-ball 27 that gave the extra cushion of 15-20 runs.
It was no surprise that on a pitch as dry as the one on Friday, Dhoni opted to start with Ravichandran Ashwin, who was once again in elements, and finished with figures of 3 for 14 in his 4 overs. As seen so often in the past, the minute Dhoni is given a turner he latches on to the opportunity and on Friday night, even the likes of Suresh Raina were given two over spells.
Ashish Nehra looked good at the start and when Jasprit Bumrah, the new death over specialist, returned at the end, he completed the job that was asked of him to help his side come on top comfortably.
While there could be a line-of-thought that someone like a Yuvraj Singh is yet to get a real good hit in the middle and Dhoni would be the first to admit that, it is even more critical that the Indians finish the job on Sunday and any kind of shuffling in the batting order will be unnecessary as the road to the World T20 continues.
After a superb start to their tour on Tuesday, Sri Lanka was caught wanting in conditions that they will have to get accustomed to soon. For in the World T20, the pitches will be expected to offer a lot more offer for the spinners, just like the one in Ranchi did on Friday.
The fast bowlers, who were so impressive in Pune were carted all over the place, with each of Kasun Rajitha, Dasun Shanaka and Dushanta Chameera going in excess of 9 runs per over and with Sachitra Senanayake still looking to gain full control with his reformed bowling action, it only compounded the worries for skipper Dinesh Chandimal.
With a mountain in front of them on a pitch assisting the spinners, the Sri Lankan batsman found the going tough and eventually fell way short of the mark.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has been such a dependable performer for them in the shortest format over the years will need to raise his game so will Chandimal if the visitors are to give the hosts a fighting chance on Sunday.
Sri Lanka has never beaten India in a limited-overs series of any kind on Indian soil and certainly face a tough task against a refreshed India on Sunday.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(C&WK), Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra.
Sri Lanka: Danushka Gunathilaka, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal(C& WK), Chamara Kapugedra, Seekkuge Prasanna, Milinda Siriwardane, Thisara Perera, Sachitra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera.
Sri Lanka: L-W-L-L
Pitch and Conditions:
Vizag has always been a batting-friendly track and it would be no different on Sunday. With short boundaries also on offer, expect the men with willow in hand to make merry.
TV Channel: Star Sports 1, HD1 (English) and 3, HD3 (Hindi)
Online Stream: www.starsports.com
Date: February 14th, Sunday
Time: 7:30 P.M IST
Venue: Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam