Followers of Sri Lanka cricket were offered a portion of what they pleaded for, never mind that it was only a Twenty20 International.
They wanted the Sri Lanka team to fight, and battle they did. They also wanted a win, but that was not going to happen, not with Virat Kohli around.
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 T20I at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Wednesday (September 6).
With the Indian skipper scoring 82 from 54 balls and Pandey making 51 not out from 36 deliveries, the visitors 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 opponents in all three formats in a series. Australia had wiped out Pakistan in 2009-10 where they whitewashed them in three Tests, five One-Day Internationals, and the one-off T20I.
India too had won the three Tests and five ODIs coming into this match. But early on, it looked like they would probably not mimic Australia after all.
After a 40-minute rain delay, Sri Lanka’s fortunes seemed to have flipped when they were 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. Niroshan Dickwella was expected to try a silly shot and get out, and so he did, but it came as a surprise when Upul Tharanga did not practice caution either.
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 sharp and upset the woodwork behind him.
Munaweera’s arrival was promising. The right-hander kicked his innings off with a glorious drive off Bhuvneshwar. There on, he only grew in strength.
While Munaweera was a picture of quality, Dickwella once again made it a point to get out looking ugly. The left-hander tried to premeditate a paddle to Bumrah in the fifth over and watched his stumps get dislodged.
Fortunately, the crowd had the eye-pleasing Munaweera to look at. 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.
It was unfortunate then that his innings came to an end in such an unpleasant manner. He tried to pull a short but skiddy delivery from Kuldeep in the 12th over, and missed the ball completely. If that was not humiliating enough, the bat slipped out of his 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 pick up the wicket of 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 should have been the third casualty in seven balls, but the umpire reckoned that the ball had not taken the outside edge off Axar’s bowling, though there was a clear deflection. The benefit of the doubt had gone in favour of India in Mathews’s stumping, so this decision somewhat evened it out.
Prasanna had more luck as Chahal dropped what should have been an easy catch at deep backward point. Despite those slices of luck, the batsman 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.
Priyanjan played some quality shots in his 40-ball stay, but the best of the lot had to be the reverse paddle scoop off Bhuvneshwar. It did not look like he was very much in control of the stroke, but the crowd did not mind.
They wanted runs. Sri Lanka’s batsmen had delivered. Now, it remained to be seen if their bowlers would.
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.
The crowd knew that Kohli could be the deciding factor, which is why when he looked streaky at the start, the crowd started to get into it. But once he stepped out and whacked Prasanna for a six off the first ball of the eighth over, their gut would have known what was coming. They had after all seen him score 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 too easy to be true. 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.
It appeared as though Kohli had some trouble breathing during the run-chase. Which could explain why he hit Udana only so 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.