KL Rahul maintained his upper hand over Shikhar Dhawan in the race for the opener’s slot with a classy knock as India outplayed Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the second T20 International here on Tuesday (January 7).
The convincing win gave the hosts an unassailable 1-0 lead in the three-match series. After reducing an inexperienced Sri Lanka to 142/9, Rahul (45 off 32) provided a perfect start, taking India to 54/0 in six overs.
Eventually, Virat Kohli (30 not out off 17) and Shreyas Iyer (34 off 26), who batted ahead of the skipper at number three, fired India home in 17.3 overs. Iyer fell just before India crossed the finishing line as Kohli finished things with a spectacular six over deep fine leg.
The third and final game of the series will be played in Pune on Friday.
Dhawan (32 off 29), returning to action after missing the limited-overs series against the West Indies due to injury, was not at his fluent best and could not keep up with Rahul at the other end. The 27-year-old from Karnataka carried his sublime form against the West Indies into effectively what was the first game of the series, following the washout in Guwahati.
Rahul’s off-side play was a treat to the eye, with five of his six boundaries coming between backward point and mid-off region. His cover drives seemed as effortless the backfoot punches. Both Dhawan and Rahul are competing for the second opener’s slot. After the fall of the openers, Kohli and Iyer enthralled the Indore crowd with some clean hitting.
Earlier, a disciplined Indian bowling attack proved too good for the struggling Sri Lankans, reducing the visitors to a below-par total. On a good batting surface, the inexperienced Sri Lanka batsmen squandered promising starts. Their job was made harder by Navdeep Saini (2/18), Shardul Thakur (3/23) and Kuldeep Yadav (2/38), who shared seven wickets among themselves.
Coming from a three-month injury lay-off, lead pacer Jasprit Bumrah did not look at his best, ending with figures of 32/1 in four overs, the most expensive after Kuldeep.
In a rare occurrence, death overs expert Bumrah conceded three back-to-back boundaries in the 20th over. Kusal Perera top-scored for Sri Lanka with an entertaining 34 off 28 balls.
Both teams went in with the same eleven that was picked for the abandoned series opener.
Sri Lanka made a decent start after Kohli opted to chase on a batting beauty, reaching 48/1 in six overs.
The brisk start was provided by Avishka Fernando (22 off 16), who got off the blocks with a delightful cover drive off a juicy half-volley from Bumrah. It was the first legitimate ball Bumrah bowled in his comeback game after starting with a wide.
Bumrah, playing his first game in more than three months, bowled his two overs in the Powerplay from different ends, giving away 16 runs. He removed Dasun Shanaka with a slower ball in his third over before conceding 12 runs in the 20th. Opener Fernando looked all class in the middle until he threw it away.
Danushka Gunathilaka (20 off 21), too, looked good at the other end, but just like Fernando, he also departed after getting set. Fernando was caught at mid-off in Washington Sundar’s first over before Saini cleaned up left-hander Gunathilaka with a fast yorker, something the Delhi pacer has been doing really well.
Kuldeep, too, struck in his opening after Oshada Fernando (10 off 9) failed to pick his googly, leaving Sri Lanka at 82/3 in the 12th over. Kuldee got rid of the dangerous Perera in his next over. After reverse sweeping the left-spinner for a six, Perera tried to clear the straight boundary but was caught by Dhawan at long-on.
Sri Lanka kept losing wickets at regular intervals which did not allow them to put up a competitive total.