Colombo, July 28: Minod Bhanuka and Dhananjaya de Silva's batting performance on a sluggish Colombo pitch guided the Sri Lankan team to a series-levelling four-wicket win against a depleted Indian side in the second Twenty20 International at R Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday (July 28).
Chasing a sub-par target of 133, Sri Lankans overhauled the target in 19.4 overs and with this win, the hosts now have a chance of winning the series. The third and deciding T20I will be played at the same venue on Thursday (July 29).
Dhananjaya de Silva was awarded the player of the match for showcasing his all-round skills in the match. De Silva remained unbeaten on 40 off 34 deliveries and took his team home and ensured his team doesn't falter while getting closer to the finish line. His innings comprised a six and a boundary but it was his presence in the middle which prevented the hosts to commit any mistakes even as the game went down the wire.
Opener Minod Bhanuka (36 off 31) also made a valuable contribution with the bat and before getting dismissed by Kuldeep Yadav, the left-handed batsman had given his team a decent start despite his opening partner Avishka Fernando fell early in the powerplay.
For India, chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Rahul Chahar were the biggest takeaways. While Kuldeep finished with 30 for 2, he certainly deserved a few more wickets. In the hindsight, the Indians would now be ruing the few dropped catches, a missed DRS opportunity off Kuldeep.
Chahar bowled brilliantly but got just a single wicket, that too on the final delivery of his spell when he got rid of Wanindu Hasaranga for 15.
The Indians would still be proud of the fight they've put in the game despite being hit by the Covid crisis. The tourists' camp was been hit by the pandemic after all-rounder Krunal Pandya tested positive. India missed the services of eight key players, including six sure shot first XI men, due to isolation protocols.
Despite scoring 15-20 runs short on a slow track, the Indians still looked in control of the game till the 18th over as run-scoring wasn't easy and the hosts were getting too many freebies. But a passing shower just before the start of the 19th over - which was bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar - made it slightly easier for the hosts.
With 20 required off 12 deliveries, India's most experienced bowler - Bhuvneshwar - bowled the 19th over against set Dhananjaya and Karunaratne - who has been hitting the ball well all through the limited-overs series.
The passing shower created a dew-like factor and made it slightly difficult for the bowlers to grip the ball. It resulted in the Bhuvneshwar offering a full toss while attempting a yorker against Karunaratne and the batsman connected it well to dispatch it over cow corner for a maximum. That six proved fatal for India and it clearly changed the dynamics of the game.
The right-arm pacer - who became only the fourth India bowler to pick up 50-plus T20I wickets in the game - ended up conceding 12 runs from his final over and left debutant Chetan Sakariya to defend eight runs from the final over. The hosts didn't face much trouble scoring the remaining eight runs and won the game by four wickets and two balls to spare.
Earlier in the day, India captain Shikhar Dhawan top-scored 40 off 42 deliveries on the slow track as a depleted Indian side could only muster 132 for five after being invited to bat first.
Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Nitish Rana and Chetan Sakariya made their debuts as nine players from the Indian camp have been isolated after all-rounder Krunal Pandya tested COVID-19 positive on Tuesday (July 27), forcing the organisers to postpone the game by a day.
Put in to bat, the new opening pair of debutant Gaikwad and Dhawan gave the tourists a sublime start in the powerplay. But Sri Lankan bowlers, especially the spinners Akila Dhanajaya and in-form Wanindu Hasaranga, picked up wickets at regular intervals and prevented Indian batsmen to score big.
Dhawan - who was the highest run-scorer for India in the game - scored 40 off 42 deliveries and his dismissal after settling down proved costly for the Indians who were only playing with just five recognised batsmen.
Debutants Padikkal and Gaikwad also failed to capitalise upon the good starts while Sanju Samson's dismissal in a bizarre fashion also hurt the Indians badly in the second half of their innings. Akila Dhananjaya was the pick of the bowlers for Sri Lanka as he returned with figures of 29 for two.