Mohali: India’s batting might helped them overcome their fielding misdemeanors, and in the process, a tough Sri Lankan outfit, as the hosts romped home to a comprehensive 7-wicket victory at Mohali and level the 2-match Twenty20 International series 1-1.
The victory, which is also the highest ever successful chase in an international Twenty20 tie, also put an end to the run of 4-successive defeats in the shortest format India had endured since the World Cup in England in June this year.
Chasing a formidable target of 207 for victory under lights, India’s reply can be divided into three phases which occurred in perfect sync with one another, enabling the hosts to scale the seemingly stiff challenge with relative ease.
The first phase was the ‘Virender Sehwag’ phase in which the Delhi Dasher imploded spectacularly to provide India with a perfect platform needed early on when chasing a big total.
Sehwag plundered 64 runs off 36 balls with 7 four and 3 sixes.
The virus of sloppy fielding that had engulfed India, seemed to have spread to the Sri Lankan fielders as well as a missed run-out chance and a missed catch helped India make a solid start.
Along with an off-colour Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag put on 58 runs for the first wicket in six overs.
With Gambhir not his usual self, Sehwag took it upon himself to provide early fireworks.
Even after Gambhir’s dismissal (21 runs off 18 balls), Sehwag continued undeterred as he smashed a ruthless half-century off just 26 balls.
After 10 overs at the half-way mark, India were 104/1, needing as many runs from the next 10 overs to win.
Sehwag’s hurricane effort came to an end when he scooped up a simple catch off a slower one of Lasith Malinga, leaving India 108/2 after 11 overs.
The second phase was when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took over from where Sehwag had left, and coming in at number three, hit some lusty blows as India kept up with the required rate.
Making amends for his failure at Nagpur when he simply failed to get going, Dhoni started off with trademark punches and slashes as suddenly the 207 run-target didn’t seem so improbable anymore.
With Dhoni in tremendous nick, Yuvraj got the much-needed breathing space as he looked to get his eye in.
They took India to 159/2 after 15 overs, and as India prepared for the final assault, Yuvraj got into his groove and that initiated the third phase of the India’s chase.
Taking 23 runs of Nuwan Kulasekara who bowled the 15th over, Yuvraj beat Dhoni to the half-century as India closed in on the chase.
Yuvraj’s knock-out punch proved to be too strong for Sri Lanka to handle and having brought up his half-century off 20 balls, the flamboyant local boy brought an end to the proceedings with a massive six, his fifth, India’s tenth, and seventeenth of the match.
Though Sri Lanka did manage to pick up consolation wickets of Dhoni and Suresh Raina (run-out!), the damage had been done as India duly leveled the series.
Yuvraj remained unbeaten on 60 runs (25 balls; 3 fours, 5 sixes) and along with his 3/23 with the ball, capped off a fine all-round performance to mark his 28th birthday.
Dhoni had contributed 46 runs from 28 balls with the aid of 3 fours and 2 sixes.
Sri Lanka make 206/7
In the evening, aided by as many as four dropped catches by buttered fingered Indian fielders, Sri Lanka managed to post a very healthy 206/7 from their 20 overs.
Dropped catches were all routine out-field chances and were instrumental in easing any pressure the bowlers managed to create with regular wickets.
Riding on his luck, the Sri Lankan batsmen made the most of it as some lusty hitting from Nuwan Kulasekara (10 not-out) and Angelo Mathews (26 not-out) helped them past the 200 run-mark for a second consecutive time.
After Kumara Sangakkara won the toss and elected to bat first, the captain led from the front with a punishing half-century at top of the order laying a perfect platform for the Sri Lankan middle-order to capitalize.
During his 31-ball 59 run-knock, Sangakkara seemed to have taken off from where he had left at Nagpur, striking his second half-century on the trot.
Hitting boundaries almost at will, the Sri Lankan captain brought up his 50 off just 29 balls soon after the visitors had brought up their 100 runs in the 10th over.
He also had the lady luck smiling in his favor as early in his innings, one of his inside edges of Ishant Sharma flew tantalizingly close past the left-stump, to the fence.
With 8 fours and 2 sixes under his belt, Sangakkara’s presence seemed ominous from the Indian point of view, before he holed up to Ashish Nehra.
Ishant had provided India with a promising start when he clean bowled the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan for just 1 run.
Dilshan faced just 3 balls as Sri Lanka lost their first wicket for just 10 runs in the second over.
However, Dishan’s breakthrough seemed to be a thing of past as Sanath Jayasuria and Sangakkara took over as Sri Lanka’s score stood a daunting 61/1
Yusuf Pathan nipped Sanath Jayasuriya’s blossoming innings in the bud when he had the latter trapped LBW for 31 runs.
The breakthrough was timely as Jayasuriya and Sangakkara had wreaked havoc among the Indian bowlers with their 81 run partnership that came off just 39 balls.
The veteran southpaw hit 5 fours and a six during his 21 ball.
Sri Lanka then just suffered a double jolt when Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara fell in quick succession to Ishant Sharma and Yuvraj Singh respectively as India attempted to fight their way back into the match.
Sangakkara’s punishing stay at the crease had come to an end when he scooped a simple catch at the long-on boundary to Ashish Nehra off the bowling of his Kings XI Punjab skipper Yuvraj Singh.
He had helped Sri Lanka to 121/3 after 11 overs.
Two over later, Jayawardene failed to get hold of a slower one from Ishant as debutant Sudeeep Tyagi took a simple catch at long-off.
He made 12 runs, striking a four and a six in his 6 ball stay.
Chamara Kapugedra’s wicket too was claimed by Yuvraj Singh as Indians looked to restrict Sri Lanka to a less than daunting total. Kapugedra’s wicket for just 2 runs was another step in that direction.
Having dropped two catches in the previous over, India finally got it right the third time when Ravindra Jadeja managed to latch on to Chintakha Jayasinghe’s offering to gift birthday boy Yuvraj Singh his third wicket.
Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra were the guilty parties who had denied Yusuf Pathan his second wicket in the previous over.
The very next ball, Kaushalya Weeraratne was involved in a mix-up with Angelo Mathews that resulted in his wicket as India finally seemed to be getting their act right on the field.
However, Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja dropped sitters, paving way for Sri Lanka to score 206/7.
India: MS Dhoni*, R Ashwin, AB Dinda, G Gambhir, KD Karthik†, A Nehra, PP Ojha, YK Pathan, SK Raina, V Sehwag, I Sharma, RG Sharma, S Sreesanth, S Tyagi, Yuvraj Singh
Sri Lanka;KC Sangakkara*†, TM Dilshan, CRD Fernando, CU Jayasinghe, ST Jayasuriya, DPMD Jayawardene, CK Kapugedera, KMDN Kulasekara, SL Malinga, AD Mathews, BAW Mendis, M Muralitharan, M Pushpakumara, K Weeraratne, UWMBCA Welegedara