The Indian batsmen chased down a tricky target with relative ease to emerge victorious by 5 wickets and march into the finals of the Asia Cup. Despite a promising start with the ball, Sri Lanka could not sustain the pressure as another classy innings from Virat Kohli thwarted their chances.
The bigger news was that Yuvraj Singh showed glimpses of his famed ability by finding the boundary with minimal effort. This will certainly ease the team management’s nerves as an in-form Yuvraj bolsters the lower-order.
Earlier, MS Dhoni won the toss and decided to have a bowl. In a tournament where bowlers have reaped rewards on friendly pitches, the Indian captain said that he wanted to wait and watch. Shikhar Dhawan replaced Ajinkya Rahane at the top of the order while the Lankans went in unchanged.
Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah made good use of the new ball by employing a fuller length. After enduring a tough time, Dinesh Chandimal played an ungainly shot only to offer a faint edge to the wicket-keeper and Nehra had once again nipped out an early wicket.
Bumrah followed his senior partner by dismissing Shehan Jayasuriya with an impeccable delivery. Even though Dhoni did not look convinced, the 24-year old walked away once the umpire raised his finger.
Tillakaratne Dilshan sparkled briefly by resorting to different strokes. However, Hardik Pandya ended the veteran’s stay with a sharp bouncer to leave Sri Lanka at an uncomfortable 31/3.
Chamara Kapugedara and Milinda Siriwardana put together a useful partnership for the fifth wicket by targeting the straight boundary. Dhoni introduced Raina into the attack in a bid to curtail the run-rate. But, the move did not work as the part-time off-spinner conceded 9 runs from his solitary over.
Things went downhill for the island nation when a flurry of wickets left them reeling at 105/7. Siriwardana perished after he unsuccessfully tried to heave a loopy delivery from Ashwin. In the same over, a comical run-out from a free-hit left onlookers bemused.
Thisara Perera smashed a 6-ball 17 to redeem his team in the death overs. But, he was hard done by erroneous umpiring after he danced down the track to Ashwin. Eventually, Sri Lanka could only manage 138 from their 20 overs.
India’s chase got off to a poor start as Nuwan Kulasekara picked up both openers inside the first 4 overs. The medium pacer swung the new-ball prodigiously as the technical deficiencies of both Dhawan and Rohit Sharma was exposed sufficiently.
Kohli and Raina joined together to steady the ship with some crisp batting. Their match awareness was admirable as the duo rotated the strike while punishing the loose balls to the fence. Kohli, in particular, played quite a few exquisite drives thereby stamping his authority on the Lankan bowlers.
But, all-rounder Dasun Shanaka broke through to send back Raina. With an opportunity to return to form, Yuvraj arrived at the crease and got going with a boundary. He unfurled his wrists to whack Rangana Herath for consecutive sixes which reduced the required rate.
The left-hander’s confidence soared as he dispatched Perera over covers for another maximum. Despite a couple of late wickets, the Kohli-Yuvraj show had ensured that the match was sealed in India’s favor.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 138/9 (Kapugedara 30, Ashwin 2-26, Pandya 2-26); India 142/5 from 19.2 overs (Kohli 56*, Yuvraj 35, Kulasekara 2-21)
Result: India won by 5 wicketsPublished 01 Mar 2016, 22:23 IST