Nidahas Trophy 2018: Kusal Perera's Power Play blitz is SK Turning Point of the match
Those who had witnessed the carnage can still recollect Sanath Jayasuriya's merciless handling of the Indian bowlers during the mid to late 1990s. On a balmy night at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, Kusal Janith Perera tore apart India's attack in such a ruthless manner that memories of Sri Lanka's finest adorned the arena in the opening game of the 2018 Nidahas Trophy.
Chasing a slightly below par target of 174 on a reasonably good batting surface, Kusal Perera made a complete mockery of the run-chase by flaying the Indian bowlers to all parts of the stadium. Largely due to his trail-blazing start in the Power Play overs, Sri Lanka finally broke free from a seven-match T20I losing streak against their northern neighbours.
The first six overs fetched Sri Lanka as many as 75 runs for the loss of just two wickets. With Kusal Perera accounting for 39 of those from only 17 balls, the hosts registered their best ever Power Play score in the shortest format of the game.
By the time the flamboyant left-hander was finally dismissed in the 13th over of the innings, he had hammered 66 invaluable runs from just 37 deliveries. Perera's belligerent knock, laced with 6 boundaries and 4 sixes, paved the way for Sri Lanka to cruise to a five-wicket triumph.
Kusal Perera lays into Shardul Thakur
Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka opened the proceedings in Sri Lanka's run-chase. Things began promisingly for India as Jaydev Unadkat conceded just six runs from the first over of the innings. When off-spinner Washington Sundar removed Mendis, the visitors appeared to be well on top.
Coming in at number three, Kusal Perera made his intentions quite clear right from the outset. A viciously struck slog-sweep off the bowling of Sundar sailed over the leg-side fence. What followed was utter destruction from the southpaw.
Despite sending down a tidy opening over, Unadkat was surprisingly taken out of the attack by skipper Rohit Sharma. With Perera in murderous mood, Shardul Thakur came under the line of fire. After swatting aside a couple of short pitched balls, he dispatched a fuller one to score his third successive boundary.
An attempt at a slower delivery went horribly wrong for Thakur as Perera spotted the variation early and deposited the ball into the stands. Under massive pressure, the right-arm seamer lost the plot completely. A waist high full toss and the ensuing free hit were duly sent to the boundary ropes.
Although Thakur finished the woeful over with a dot ball, the damage had already been done. By looting as many as 27 runs from the third over, Perera left India in a position from which they could never really pick themselves up.
Gunathilaka smashed a boundary and two sixes before being deceived by a slower delivery from Unadkat. A sedate sixth over kept Sri Lanka's plunder to 75 runs at the end of the Power Play stage. With eight wickets left at their disposal, they required 100 more runs from the remaining 84 balls.
India wilt under Sri Lankan onslaught
Having got himself well set, Kusal Perera looked to consolidate his team's strong position by settling for singles and doubles. However, whenever a boundary opportunity came his way, he capitalised without fail.
Washington Sundar finally removed the dangerous left-hander with a clever piece of bowling. Upon dancing down the track, Perera was outsmarted by the flight and drift generated by the young off-spinner.
When Yuzvendra Chahal castled the experienced Upul Tharanga, it was the result of some sustained pressure from the Indian bowlers. But the wicket did not make much of a difference to the state of the match. Batting sensibly, the all-round pairing of Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka knocked off the remaining runs to complete a rousing victory for Sri Lanka.