Dakha: India tonight stormed into the final of the Asia Cup T20 cricket tournament with another comfortable five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, riding on Virat Kohli’s unbeaten half-century.
It was their third successive victory, clinching a berth for the summit clash as they now stand on the cusp of their sixth continental championship trophy.
After the bowlers restricted Sri Lanka to 138 for nine, the ‘Men In Blue’ overcame the early hiccups as they reached the target in 19.2 overs. It might look close from the scoreboard but India always had control of the match.
The ever-consistent Virat Kohli once again made a significant contribution with a 56 not out off 47 balls with seven fours.
But the innings of the match was certainly played by Yuvraj Singh, who showed glimpses of his vintage self during a cameo of 35 from only 18 balls that had three sixes and two boundaries.Yuvraj grabbed the game by the scruff and provided impetus to India’s chase that was asking for a few lusty blows. It was exhilarating to see him strike the ball so well again, having seen him hop-and-jump awkwardly in the previous few matches, where it looked like at times that he was on the pitch without a bat in hand.
When Yuvraj came to the crease India was at 70 for 3 and needed more 69 runs, Shanaka presented him with a half-tracker outside the off stump. Yuvraj accepted the favour with a four past backward point. Rangana Herath tried to tease him with flight. Yuvraj charged down the track and dispatched it over long-on for a six. The veteran spinner bowled a faster and fuller one on to the pads. Yuvraj whipped it over deep mid-wicket for another six. Dushmantha Chameera’s pace made him judicious but Thisara Perera posed no such threat and Yuvraj dealt him with contempt. The inside-out shot over cover for a six was the best he played tonight. And when Chameera bowled short and into the body, the 34-year-old glided him to the fine leg fence. Attack continued and Perera was once again clobbered to the long-off boundary. But the Sri Lankan medium pacer responded with a bouncer and induced the top edge to have Yuvraj caught at fine leg By the time, he was gone trying to hook Thisara Perera, he added 51 runs in 5.4 overs with Kohli and more so ended whatever little chances that Sri Lanka harboured in the match. Welcome back to the party! “His approach has always been good. More he spends time in the middle, more he gets better,” Dhoni said after the match.
Yuvraj once again proved the old adage that class is permanent as he effortlessly shifted gears from the last match, where he just wanted to build a partnership with Kohli.
Yuvraj’s contribution to that association was an 18-ball 35. He returned to the dug-out with the tricolour flying high in the stands. India needed 18 more and Kohli was still there. The beauty of Kohli’s batting is that very few in world cricket read the situation better than him. When Yuvraj was blazing away, he didn’t mind playing second fiddle. Against Pakistan, he had fallen with the finish line in sight, here Kohli stayed to see the job done and took a deserved man-of-the-match award.
While Hardik Pandya (2) was fooled by an arm ball from Herath, a Mahendra Singh Dhoni straight six and a couple of boundaries from Kohli finished the proceedings.
India’s opening pair of Rohit Sharma (15) and Shikhar Dhawan (1) did not fire as Nuwan Kulasekara bowled an inspired first spell getting the deliveries to move both ways.
One such delivery that moved in after pitching (away going for left-hander) found Dhawan poking at it to give a catch to Chandimal behind the stumps.
To be fair, Sri Lanka didn’t have the bowling to make a contest out of a 139-run victory target on a slow pitch like this. And they were restricted to a below par total because Indian bowlers performed collectively. Dhoni’s decision to field first proved to be spot-on with the new-ball operators giving breakthroughs up front and Hardik Pandya chipping in as first change.
Ashish Nehra outthought Dinesh Chandimal, making the ball to go away off a length and getting the outside edge. Chandimal had come down the crease to attempt a slog. Jasprit Bumrah dismissed Shehan Jayasuriya with a beauty of an outswinger before Pandya came and accounted for Tillakaratne Dilshan with his first ball — a well-directed bouncer.
Dhoni once again brought Yuvraj ahead of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja into the attack but this time, the part-time spinner didn’t strike in his first over and the captain promptly replaced him with Jadeja. Mathews, however, welcomed him with a lofted drive to the straight boundary before hitting Pandya for another two fours. The latter exacted his revenge in the final ball of the over, tempting Mathews to drive with a widish delivery and getting an inside edge that disturbed the timber. It was a huge wicket.
Milinda Siriwardana tried to hit his way out of trouble, but Ashwin beat him in the air as Raina took a simple catch at long-on. Bumrah returned to remove a well-set Kapugedera with Pandya holding on to a very good catch at deep mid-off. But Perera lived up to his reputation of a big-hitter and scored 17 off just six balls before being foxed by a wide delivery from Ashwin. Kulasekara, too, hit a couple of fours to take Sri Lanka to their highest total in three matches so far. However, India had too much depth to play with, especially against a bowling attack bereft of Lasith Malinga, who missed out because of a sore knee.
ANGELO MATHEWS says that they were probably 20-30 runs short with the dew coming in. Credits India’s batsmen for batting well and applauds Kohli in particular. Stresses on the dew factor again and says that the ball skidded through quickly. Feels that his side had to get more runs on the board. Admits that the start with the ball was good but says that they ran into an in-form Virat. States that he is unsure about the team selection for the next match.
MS DHONI feels that consistent performances are important. Points out on the stat regarding India’s record in recent games where they just lost 1 game out of 9 matches. Feels that it was important for all batsmen to get a hit out there and credits Yuvraj for playing a good knock. Maintains that he is happy overall with the team’s performance. Feels that the track did have help for the bowlers although it wasn’t as hard as the previous matches. Says that it was a decent pitch as the batsmen too could get runs once set, especially with the dew in. Adds that the target of 139 wasn’t a totally easy chase but is happy that his team did it with conviction. Credits his bowlers for being consistent and says that it is the reason why India haven’t changed their bowling line up or even their XI as such. Feels that Pandya’s presence gives balance to the side in all departments.
VIRAT KOHLI (MAN OF THE MATCH) says that he is happy being able to play such good knocks again in a pressure game. Says that it was important to be on the game today as the target was higher than the Pakistan game. Feels that it was important for him to force the pace to set the tempo of the innings. Reveals that it was a plan (regarding his stepping out to the quicker bowlers). States that it was a plan to also cut down on the movement gained by the bowlers while also upsetting their radar. Accepts that dew is certainly a factor but states that it isn’t easy for a new batsman to get going although a set batsman can cash in.
Match Summary(Asia Cup):
Sri Lanka innings
Powerplay: Overs 0.1 – 6.0 (Mandatory – 31 runs, 2 wickets)
Sri Lanka: 50 runs in 10.1 overs (61 balls), Extras 5
Sri Lanka: 100 runs in 15.6 overs (96 balls), Extras 7
Innings Break: Sri Lanka – 138/9 in 20.0 overs (PVD Chameera 2)
Powerplay: Overs 0.1 – 6.0 (Mandatory – 37 runs, 2 wickets)
India: 50 runs in 7.6 overs (48 balls), Extras 0
3rd Wicket: 50 runs in 39 balls (V Kohli 27, SK Raina 23, Ex 0)
India: 100 runs in 14.3 overs (87 balls), Extras 1
4th Wicket: 50 runs in 33 balls (V Kohli 15, Yuvraj Singh 35, Ex 1)
V Kohli: 50 off 44 balls (6 x 4)
Result: India win by 5 wickets in final over (with 4 balls remaining).
Playing Eleven (X1):
Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ajay Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah
Team Sri Lanka:
Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Milinda Siriwardana, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Rangana Herath