Young Sri Lanka upset India in the 1st T20, win by 5 wickets
The highs of a series win in Australia were matched equally by the humbling lows at Pune, as India slumped to a defeat by 5 wickets at the hands of a Sri Lankan side that was fearless and had nothing to lose.
India were dismissed for their third lowest T20I total of 101 before Sri Lanka hiccuped their way to a 5 wicket victory.
If India were on a high after achieving a feat that had never been achieved before, they were in for a surprise, as an equally confident, and a young Sri Lankan side waited for them. What transpired was an eye opener for a batting line-up that had assumed an unassailable status after their leather whacking prowess shown over the last couple of years.
All it took was a green top, and some disciplined bowling by young fearless Sri Lankans to expose the frailties of Indian batting as they were bowled out for 101.
Frailties of Indian batting exposed
When Rohit Sharma chipped the second ball of the match in the air to give a diving Dushmantha Chameera a well-taken catch at mid-off, it wasn’t just an early jitter. Rather, India were in for a slide that saw their batsmen acting like sitting ducks in the midst of a war.
Ajinkya Rahane’s leading edge found the Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal’s hands to make the capacity crowd at the MCA Stadium take notice of a Kasun Rajitha who had taken 2 wickets in his first over on debut.
Had this game been played at the R Premadasa instead of Pune, the reaction of the crowd wouldn’t have changed. Rajitha and the Sri Lankan team that played today were that young and that unknown.
The carnage continued as Shikhar Dhawan strolled down the Juhu beach- except that it was the pitch- and swung at the ball like those swords swung at a stage drama. There was no drama in the deep, though, as Danushka Gunathilaka took the catch this time after he had dropped Suresh Raina at the same position a few balls earlier.
The reprieve wasn’t made full use of, though, and Harsha Bhogle reminded the world that the ball was allowed to move in the air as well as off the pitch after some seam movement had accounted for Raina leg stump in the 9th over to reduce India to 49/4.
Raina’s cameo stopped there but the downfall continued as a well-directed short ball by Dasun Shanaka (Dasun who?) found MS Dhoni’s edge and Niroshan Dickwella took a high catch behind the stumps, as Shanaka joined Rajitha in the list of T20I bowlers to have taken 2 wickets in their first over on debut.
From completely unknown players, the story then moved to a relatively unknown player who had recently picked up his first 5-wicket haul in Tests in New Zealand, as Chameera first rattled Yuvraj Singh with a well-directed bouncer which forced him to play a rash shot on the next ball, as the ball flew straight up and straight down into the bowler's hands.
Shanaka then accounted for Hardik Pandya when he trapped him leg-before to leave India tottering at 58/7 in 11 overs, just as Harsha Bhogle was praising young cricketers coming up from Baroda.
The question that loomed as Pandya walked back was whether the Baroda batsman or batsmen from any part of the country could play on green tops. India reached 101 only because Ravichandran Ashwin decided that he needed some runs to bowl at, and Ashish Nehra seconded that thought.
The duo put up 28 runs for the 9th wicket to make India go past 100 runs. Ashwin top scored with the bat with an unbeaten 31 while Shanaka and Rajitha picked up three wickets a piece in addition to Chameera’s two wickets and Sachitra Senanayake’s solitary wicket of Ravindra Jadeja.
Sri Lanka cross the line after some hiccups
The pitch, as was understood by now, was behaving like a trampoline, and the novice Sri Lankan openers fell prey to its guile as Dickwella departed in the very first over top edging a Nehra delivery to Dhawan, only to be followed by his opening partner Gunathilaka with an almost identical dismissal.
The only experienced pair of the Lankan line-up, that of Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedera, then carried the innings forward with a 39-run stand- that was a mixture of caution and calculated risks- for the third wicket before Ashwin struck in his first over to trap Kapugedera leg-before.
Raina got Chandimal thereafter to spark some late life into the match, which was backed up by Ashwin as he took his second wicket of the match courtesy a good catch taken by Raina to dismiss Shanaka and reduce SL to 91/5.
But India, by then, had too few runs to play with, and Sri Lanka got home by 5 wickets in the 18th over.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 105/5 (Chandimal 35, Kapugedera 25, Ashwin 2/13, Nehra 2/21) beat India 101 (Ashwin 31, Raina 20, Shanaka 3/16, Rajitha 3/29) by 5 wickets.