India may have been the overwhelming favourites going into the T20 series at home against Sri Lanka. But, the visitors proved they will be no pushovers even with an inexperienced squad as they registered an impressive five-wicket triumph to go 1-0 up in the three-match series. Debutant Kasun Rajitha got the Lankans off to a fantastic start, claiming the first three Indian wickets. The hosts never recovered, and were kept down to a meagre 101. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal (35), Chamara Kapugedera (25) and Milinda Siriwardana (21 not out) then combined to ensure that Sri Lanka stayed ahead in the chase, and eventually aced it with two overs to spare.
The victory was delivered by Siriwardana, who looked among the more fluent players out in the middle. With seven needed, he check-pulled Jasprit Bumrah over square leg boundary for a six. Next ball, he whipped the bowler towards the midwicket boundary to earn a cherished victory for the Lankans against the number one Test team in the world. Defending a paltry target, Ashish Nehra bowled smart short balls to dismiss the openers Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka. Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina tried hard to keep things under control, but India had too few to defend.
The Sri Lankan seam bowlers were all over a somewhat overconfident Indian batting line up on a surface that held up, and provided plenty of assistance to the raw, but talented Lankan bowling line-up. India were asked to bat first after Sri Lanka won the toss at Pune. Little did they know that 101 is all they would manage after 18.5 overs. Ashwin, known more for his bowling exploits, ended up as the top scorer with an unbeaten 31 from 24 balls. Rajitha combined with Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera to dismantle the Indian innings altogether.
The debutant, Rajitha, shocked the Indians early on. The in-form Rohit Sharma was sent back second ball as he checked his drive, and spooned one to mid-off. Off the last ball of the first over of the match, Ajinkya Rahane was back in the pavilion, a leading edge from a short ball being taken by a diving Chandimal at short extra cover. Shikhar Dhawan slogged a six off Thisara Perera, but soon top edged Rajitha to third man as India crumbled to 32 for 3. It was a pretty good over for India until then as Raina had taken a four and six off Rajitha.
Yuvraj Singh began by hitting Sachithra Senanayake straight down the ground for six second ball, but it was among the few pleasing moments for India with the bat. Raina was cleaned up by Shanaka for 20 as he tried to make room while MS Dhoni top-edged to the keeper a couple of balls later. Chameera then outdid Yuvraj with a bouncer that the southpaw only managed to lob straight up in the air. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja were trapped lbw by Shanaka and Senanayake respectively. Ashwin held one end up for India with some support from Nehra, but Bumrah’s embarrassing run-out following a mix up with Ashwin all but summed up India’s day.
--By A Cricket Correspondent