Ireland vs India, 2nd T20I: Rahul-Raina partnership is SK Turning Point of the match
Continuing the momentum generated from their emphatic triumph on Wednesday, India trounced Ireland by 143 runs in the second T20I at The Village in Malahide. The massive win was not only their biggest ever in T20Is but also allowed India to seal the series 2-0 and begin their tour on a high.
Much like in the opening match, the platform for the comprehensive victory was set up by India's formidable top-order. This time around, the protagonists were KL Rahul and Suresh Raina.
With Kohli opting to test the depth of his squad, Rahul took Shikhar Dhawan's place in the lineup. The skipper also decided to promote himself to the opening spot even as Rohit Sharma was slotted in at number four.
Rahul-Raina dazzle in Dublin sun
Under bright sunshine in Dublin, Irish captain Gary Wilson surprisingly inserted India in to bat. The move might have been precipitated by the green-tinged pitch on offer. When medium pacer Peter Chase acquired the prized scalp of Kohli in the third over of the match, the hosts' decision to bowl first appeared to be working.
Coming in at the crucial number three position, Raina prevented any jitters in the visitors camp. He combined brilliantly with the explosive Rahul and helped establish a strong foundation. The left-right duo kept coming hard at the Ireland bowlers in a bid to place them under pressure right from the outset.
After Rahul had hammered Boyd Rankin into the stands, Raina pummelled Stuart Thompson for two huge sixes in the space of just three balls. The introduction of Simi Singh did not work either as the right-hander ruthlessly took the attack to the off-spinner.
Some loose bowling from Rankin enabled Rahul to treat the packed arena to two more delectable sixes. By the time he chipped a return catch to Kevin O'Brien's gentle seam-up, the opener had smashed 70 runs from just 36 balls. His tone-setting partnership with Raina had yielded 106 runs for the second wicket off only 57 deliveries.
Kevin O'Brien removed Rohit Sharma in the same over to briefly lift the Irish spirits. However, Raina soon brought up his fifth T20I half-century and continued to find the boundary. A spectacular six over long-on saw India move past the 150-run mark in the 16th over.
Upon making 69 runs from 45 balls, Raina perished whilst attempting to heave a cleverly disguised off-cutter from O'Brien. All-rounder Hardik Pandya blasted a 9-ball 32 and lifted India to a vast total. The hard-hitting right-hander managed to find the stands on as many as four occasions.
India saunter to mammoth victory
Chasing 214, Ireland got off to a dismal start as Umesh Yadav's extra pace and Siddarth Kaul's impressive lengths rocked the top-order. The likes of Paul Stirling, William Porterfield and James Shannon were all dismissed even before the fourth over could be completed.
Skipper Kohli did not wait long before unleashing his in-form wrist-spinners on the hapless Irish middle-order. The duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav ran rings around the home side's batting lineup. They complemented each other excellently by imparting generous flight and then varying their pace to keep the batsmen guessing.
Chahal and Kuldeep picked up six wickets between them from a combined spell of 39 balls. The sparkling performance of the two wrist-spinners sent Ireland crashing to 70 all out. Across both T20Is, the manner in which they were brushed aside exemplified the gulf in class between the hosts and the rampant Indian team.