Dasgupta: Rohit makes batting look easy
India 260 for 5 (Rohit 118, Rahul 89, Thisara 2-49) beat v Sri Lanka 172 (Kusal 77, Tharanga 47, Chahal 4-52, Kuldeep 3-52) by 88 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Rohit Sharma headlined a match that saw 31 sixes and a slew of records being broken, battering a 35-ball century, the joint-fastest in T20Is, in a ground whose short boundaries were purportedly the reason why Thisara Perera had decided to put India in for the second game in a row. While Sri Lanka did manage to score at nearly 10 an over, they failed to last 20 overs again, this time in a steeper chase of 260, eventually losing by 88 runs.
Rohit had smiled sheepishly at Thisara after the visiting captain had called correctly again. But the smiles were of a different kind after he walked out to a quick wicket, where Angelo Mathews welcomed him with sub-115kph short balls. The Indian captain used that start to transcend into a state of demolition, with shots we’re accustomed to seeing when he’s been around for more than half an ODI innings.On Friday night, he didn’t need anywhere near that much time.
While KL Rahul brought the allure early on, Rohit had the better strike-rate, swatting the short balls away with characteristic disdain, before resorting to caressing length balls over his favoured midwicket region. He even took 15 runs off his first five balls against Akila Dananjaya’s legspin, the form of bowling that was routinely talked about as his weakness in the IPL earlier this year.
By the end of the ninth over, Sri Lanka had used seven bowlers, a number that indicated they had enough options to warrant bringing in an extra batsman, but one which, on the flip side, glaringly exposed their decision to drop a specialist in Vishwa Fernando. Four men apart from the new-ball bowlers had gone for at least 16 in their first over. Asela Gunaratane went for 21 in his opening over, which started with Rohit slapping a loopy one over midwicket to reach his fifty in 23 balls, before sending the next ball over midwicket for a big six to bring up the century opening stand.
Off his next 11 balls, only three failed to breach the boundary. The most delightful of them came at the end of the streak, a slap on the up over cover which brought up his hundred, and the two sixes off the balls before, carved on either side of sweeper cover. It was the earliest century scored in a T20I innings, coming in the 12th over.
With that much time remaining, thoughts of another double-hundred in limited-overs cricket had begun but Dushmantha Chameera bowled the most effective change up of Sri Lanka’s innings, a short slower ball that Rohit couldn’t ramp over third man. As he walked off, he responded to a question from Ravi Shastri in the dressing room, cupping his hands like a wicketkeeper to signal he wanted MS Dhoni in at No. 3.
At the other end, Rahul played watchfully, visibly bothered by horizontal-bat shots, several of which he under-edged into the turf as Sri Lanka resorted to slower balls early in the innings. He would’ve fallen to one too, but Sadeera Samarawickrama dropped him at point on 6.
He switched tactics and decided to go straight, which resulted immediately in the shot of the evening. He walked at a 140kph delivery from Chameera that was prime for a cut – short and a tad wide. Except, his hands came from under the ball rather than above it, and he punched it over the long-off boundary, all the way into the top-tier. He then launched a Nuwan Pradeep slower ball straight over the bowler’s head for six, having just tickled a slower ball past short fine leg off his hips.
In fact, he didn’t bring out the pull till Rohit was dismissed, following which he dominated a 78-run stand with Dhoni. He was given another reprieve on 83, when Gunaratne, who had lined up under a flick at deep square, seemed to completely miss it as it approached him, letting it sail over his head. But Pradeep had his man the very next ball, inducing a thick outside edge that was taken by Niroshan Dickwella with a leap to his right. India lost four wickets in the last ten balls, but finished with the second-highest total in T20I cricket.
The indignity of conceding 260 notwithstanding, Sri Lanka did make good of their prophecy that this was a chasing ground. Dickwella tried a series of scoops, including one off the first ball of the innings in his 25 off 19 balls. He didn’t make full use of his chance – Rahul returned Sri Lanka’s favours with a drop of his own – though and was dismissed in the fifth over.
Kusal Perera lasted the longest of all Sri Lankan batsmen in the last game, but was the most troubled of them. He turned that around dramatically in Indore, muscling several deliveries over the wide mid-on boundary. He took a liking to Yuzvendra Chahal in particular, using his reach to cart the bowler into the leg side despite being beaten in flight several times. Kuldeep Yadav wasn’t spared either, despite taking the ball away from the left hander.
Kusal’s blitz somewhat made up for Upul Tharanga’s early struggles, but the opener soon got into the act, as they added 109 for the second wicket at more than 12 an over to leave their side with an outside chance. But it took one wicket – Tharanga top-edged a hoick off Chahal – to set a collapse in motion. The next over, Kuldeep’s last, saw three wickets, starting with the promoted Thisara top-edging one to Hardik Pandya’s right at long-on off his first ball. Kusal then skewed one to long-off, and Gunaratne missed a googly to be stumped.
Chahal then picked up three wickets in the next over to finish with four. With Mathews absent hurt – and out of the series according to Thisara – Sri Lanka folded from 145 for 1 to 172 all out in 25 balls
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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