Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Sri Lanka batsman Kusal Perera put on a show in Colombo as he hammered a 37-ball 66 to lead his side to a comfortable five-wicket win over India in the opening match of the Nidahas Trophy.
As a result of their victory, Sri Lanka snapped a seven-game losing streak to India in Twenty20 Internationals.
Electing to bowl first, Sri Lanka got their first breakthrough in the opening over of the match as India stand-in captain Rohit Sharma was brilliantly caught by Jeevan Mendis off the bowling of Dushmantha Chameera for a duck.
Suresh Raina was on his way back to the pavilion the very next over as he was clean bowled by Nuwan Pradeep for one run.
Shikhar Dhawan and Manish Pandey stabilised the innings with a 95-run partnership, during which Dhawan brought up his fifty, before Pandey was dismissed by Jeevan Mendis for a 35-ball 37.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Dhawan began to take over after Pandey’s dismissal as he and Rishabh Pant added 49 runs to India’s total before Dhawan was caught at long-off off the bowling of Danushka Gunathilaka for a career-best 90, which came off 49 balls and included six boundaries and six sixes.
Pant went on to make 23 before he was caught by Pradeep at deep fine leg off the bowling of Chameera on the last ball of the innings.
With Dinesh Karthik finishing unbeaten on 13, India finished on 174/5 off their 20 overs.
Chameera was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Pradeep, Gunathilaka and Jeevan Mendis chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing 175 to win, Sri Lanka lost Kusal Mendis early on as he was caught by Dhawan off the bowling of Washington Sundar for 11.
Kusal Perera and Gunathilaka began to up the ante after Mendis was gone as they amassed a 58-run partnership in 21 balls before Gunathilaka was caught by Pant at mid-off off the bowling of Jaydev Unadkat for 19.
Sri Lanka stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal only made 14 runs before he was clean bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal.
Perera went on to make 66 off 37 balls, which included six boundaries and four sixes, before he was stumped by Karthik off the bowling of Sundar.
Upul Tharanga managed to make 17 before he was cleaned up by Chahal.
However, that was to be India’s last taste of success as Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka finished things off with an unbeaten 39-run stand.
Thisara ended up making 22 off 10 balls, which included two boundaries and a six, while Shanaka remained undefeated on 15 off 18 deliveries, which included a solitary boundary.
Chahal and Sundar took two wickets apiece, while Unadkat claimed one.
Rohit was disappointed to have lost, and said: “I think we got a par score, something we could’ve played with. Having seen the wicket here – it was flat – I thought we could have accelerated towards the end. That said, we still had a decent score but the kind of start Sri Lanka got was amazing. Credit to them as a batting group. Our bowlers tried everything they could, but sometimes it doesn’t come off the way you want it to.
“I felt we have enough experience in our bowling line-ups. Yes, they are new in the scene, but they’ve put in performances. I had a lot of confidence going into the game. Yes, the execution wasn’t up to the mark but we can learn from our mistakes.
“On a wicket like that, your batting has to be as strong as possible. We’re blessed to have a squad that has good batting depth, we also have a couple of all-rounders. Hopefully we’ll come back strong.”
Chandimal was thrilled to have won, and said: “Very happy as a team. Trying to play competitive cricket, we knew good results will follow if we do that. This is all about transferring confidence from the Bangladesh series.
“The management have done a wonderful job at training sessions. Really happy! Chandika Hathurusingha has been amazing. This result shows how good we are as a team.”
Kusal Perera was named Man of the Match, and said: “This is the best innings I’ve played. I was confident in my abilities. I’m feeling 100 percent fit now.”