India, arguably, looked the better team in the third T20I at the MCA Stadium in Pune. In the end, the Men in Blue shot Sri Lanka out for a paltry 123 and won by a mammoth 78 runs. The resounding victory also helped them start 2020 on a grand note, bagging the series 2-0. Lasith Malinga’s men strained every sinew at stages, but the home team had answers to every questioned posted to them.
Rahul and Dhawan set the platform
Unlike the second T20I, India got the chance of batting first in Pune. And they made it count, piling on 201 in 20 overs. KL Rahul (54) and Shikhar Dhawan (52) put on 97 for the first wicket off 65 balls to lay the platform for a blistering finish. Lakshan Sandakan gave Lanka some breather when he got rid of Dhawan caught by Danushka Gunathilaka. Sanju Samson announced his return in grand style.
He hit Wanindu Hasaranga for a six in the very first ball he faced. But the tweaker got him in the next delivery. Sandakan then accounted for Rahul and Shreyas Iyer’s wicket to put pressure on the hosts. But cameos from Manish Pandey (31*), Virat Kohli (26) and Shardul Thakur (22*) propelled India’s score. Pandey and Thakur took 19 runs off pacer Lahiru Kumara’s last over to take India over 200.
India clinical with the ball
The Lankans huffed and puffed to start their run-chase. All of Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Kusal Perera and Oshada Fernando couldn’t cross the double-digit score. Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini combined to wreak havoc. In the powerplay, the visitors could only manage 35 runs. But Dhananjaya de Silva (57) and the experienced Angelo Mathews (31) got the innings going.
The brought up their 50-run stand off 28 balls with the required rate above 12. Washington Sundar removed Mathews to break the partnership. De Silva went on to score his fifty off 31, but Lanka kept being pushed away. In the quest to get quick runs, he perished to Saini and his dismissal nearly sealed the fate of the encounter. The lower order couldn’t bear the brunt of the fiery Indian bowlers.
Virat Kohli, the Indian skipper, said
A good start to this year. We started on the right track, chasing one game and setting the other. Just the confidence of getting that 200 mark will help us. What Manish and Shardul did in the end really helped. We saw guys who turned up and who put their hands up when the senior guys don’t perform.
We wanted to plug some of the gaps. I think today as well, we thought 180 at one stage and crossed 200. In Mumbai as well, we thought 200 and crossed 230. We don’t want to be a team which is tentative while batting first, and we want to show the same attitude which we bring in chases while batting first as well.
All three (Rohit, Dhawan and Rahul) are solid players, it all boils down to who is batting better. Rohit has been a consistent performer. People must stop pitting people against each other and I don’t believe in doing that at all.
Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lanka skipper, said
I think in these kind of situations when the conditions were wet, we needed to control the ball better. They (India) got away in the last three overs. But our top-order batsmen got out quickly and Dhananjaya and Mathews showed us how easy it was to bat here. We need to learn how to handle these situations better.
This is the talent we have in Sri Lanka and we have to back them and get the maximum out of them in the World Cup. All teams in the world are using wrist spinners, and we have good bowlers in Hasaranga and Sandakan. These are the two bowlers we are looking at going into the World Cup.
Shardul Thakur, the Player of the Match, said
I believe I have the ability with the bat and I have been practicing well. If I can contribute at number eight, it is always crucial for the team. With regards to my action, I can bowl outswingers, so the focus is to swing the ball early. I have spent quite some time in the team ever since I broke in in 2016.
I get a homely feeling and don’t feel left out, so credit to the captain and the management. I am preparing myself to bat when I am waiting outside and that takes pressure off me when I come in.
Navdeep Saini, the Player of the Series, said
When I used to play with the red ball earlier, I used to find bowling with the white ball difficult. But now after practicing, I have been finding it easier and have been getting better. My seniors have been helping me as well as to how to bowl in different situations.
Bowling fast comes naturally to me. I look after my gym, my diet and playing for India is a big deal. I have been playing with the red ball only for the last four-five years and before that I was playing with the tennis ball only.
Manish Pandey said
Coaches told me somewhere down the line I will get a game and I have to be ready for it. Luckily, I got my chance today and got a good partnership with Shardul. I will keep pushing. I have been batting well in domestic cricket, Syed Mushtaq Ali was good for me as well as Karnataka. I was batting well in the nets as well, somewhere I knew, I will get my chance and I have to be ready. I had to deliver and I did. I have been working on my off-side game in the nets and these things help you in the matches too.