Indian captain Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey realised 119 runs for the third wicket to guide India to a seven-wicket win in the one-off, rain-affected Twenty20 International against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Wednesday.
With the Indian skipper scoring 82 from 54 balls and Pandey making 51 not out from 36 deliveries, the visiting side reached 174 for 3 from 19.2 overs in response to Sri Lanka’s 170 for 7 from 20 overs, taking the series tally to 9-0.
This is only the second instance of a side sweeping its opponent in all three formats in a series. Australia had beaten Pakistan in 2009-10 across three Tests, five One-Day Internationals, and a one-off T20I.
India too had won three Tests and five ODIs coming into this match. But early on, it looked like the team would probably not mimic Australia after all.
After a 40-minute rain delay, Sri Lanka’s fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better after the home team was asked to bat by Kohli.
Dilshan Munaweera’s 29-ball 53, Ashan Priyanjan’s 40-ball 40 not out and Isuru Udana’s 10-ball 19 not out helped build Sri Lanka’s hopes. Yuzvendra Chahal’s 3 for 43 and Kuldeep Yadav’s 2 for 20 helped India keep that hope from swelling.
Sri Lanka’s openers came out with plenty of aggression but no real plan. Both Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga, the captain, were out to rash shots. A delivery after pulling Bhuvneshwar Kumar to the fence with all the grace in the world, the Sri Lankan skipper tried to heave a full ball over midwicket without moving his feet. The ball swung in sharply and upset the woodwork behind him.
Munaweera’s arrival was promising though. The right-hander kicked his innings off with a glorious drive off Bhuvneshwar. There on, he only grew in strength. But while Munaweera was a picture of quality, Dickwella fell trying to premeditate a paddle to Jasprit Bumrah in the fifth over and watched his stumps get dislodged.
Fortunately, Munaweera was still there. Even after Angelo Mathews fell prey to the magic hands of MS Dhoni behind the stumps — it was yet another one of his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stumping off Chahal — Munaweera kept the runs coming thick and fast while looking stylish en route to his maiden international half-century. His dismissal was anti-climatic though, trying to pull a short but skiddy delivery from Kuldeep in the 12th over, and missing the ball completely while his bat slipped out of the hand and flew to square leg.
India’s spinners then took control of the situation. While Axar Patel tied one end up, Kuldeep and Chahal ran riot. Chahal, whose best figures in the shortest format were 6 for 25 against England in Bangalore earlier this year, was quick and controlled.
He was a tad lucky to get past Thisara Perera, who played a short ball onto the stumps, but his next scalp was a thing of beauty. A googly deceived Dasun Shanaka’s forward defence and rapped the batsman on the pads the same over. Shanaka was plumb in front.
Seekkuge Prasanna rode his luck for a while, but he couldn’t make it a big one and holed out to Kohli on 11.
Priyanjan, who came in as cover for an injured Milinda Siriwardana, was the late boost Sri Lanka needed. On his T20I debut, the 28-year-old found Udana for a partner and started to accelerate, realising an unbeaten 36 runs for the eighth-wicket.
The batsmen had put up a reasonable total on the board, and it was up to the bowlers to defend it. Sri Lanka managed to send Rohit Sharma packing with a short ball from Lasith Malinga. KL Rahul (24) fell to a cracking catch by Dasun Shanaka at short cover off Prasanna, but with Kohli still there – his was always the key wicket.
The crowd knew that Kohli could be the deciding factor, which is why when he looked streaky at the start, they started to get into the proceedings with gusto. But once Kohli stepped out and whacked Prasanna for a six off the first ball of the eighth over, the seal was set on the chase. After all, Kohli had just scored 131 and 110 in the last two times he was at this venue.
Sure enough, Kohli decimated Sri Lanka’s bowling and made the run chase look like a regulation stroll. Pandey, for his part, was no less impressive. He did not possess the style of a Kohli but he made up for that with street-smart cricket. Kohli fell with the target in sight, hitting Udana only as far as Shanaka at deep midwicket with 10 runs needed.
As luck would have it, Dhoni came out and remained unbeaten yet again – his fifth time in a row — and Pandey sealed it with a boundary to extra cover. (International Cricket Council)