|Player of the Match CAK Rajitha|
Just a touch of the green makes Team India scream! There was some green in the Pune pitch for the 1st match of the T20 Cricket Series between India and Sri Lanka. If we go by the history of IPL matches played there the Pune ground has been largely a low-scoring one with lot of help offered to the seam bowlers. Sri Lanka skipper Chandimal sensed Team India’s contempt for greens well and cleverly put the hosts in after winning the toss. The Indian top-order batsmen wanting to start from where they left in Australia went for big shots immediately and perished with two wickets falling in the very first over, Virat Kohli missed dearly at the No. 3 spot. The middle and lower order, always in doubt of their ability, did not learn anything and contributed to the collapse with only Ashwin helping the team reach a paltry 101 runs—not even being able to last the full twenty overs. Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets with 12 balls spare—but not before some anxious moments.
|Plalyer of the Match Shikhar Dhawan|
Team India came back magnificently in the 2ndT20 international at Ranchi. Finally Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was at home at home. He kept wickets and commanded the team brilliantly. We talked earlier about his tendency to promote himself in the batting order once the top order fires. However, despite Ranchi being his home ground Dhoni resisted the temptation after Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma delivered in great style with some support from Ajikya Rahane and sent Pandya ahead of him which proved to be a very good decision. Pandya built on the momentum provided and kept the Indian run-rate consistently over 10 per over with a quickfire knock. Team India was also helped by the Sri Lanka captain’s decision after winning the toss. Perhaps the fact that the Sri Lankan batting strength was not really tested in the first T20 match influenced Chandimal’s decision to put the hosts in again on a seemingly perfect batting track. The Indians accepted the generous offer and they were unstoppable except for a Perera hattrick in the penultimate over. The target set was 199 and it was almost beyond the reach of the Sri Lankans. And it proved to be like that with just 127 runs put up on the board for the loss of 9 wickets. It was a huge win by 69 runs and the Australia bashers got it right in every sphere of the game ruthlessly.
The 3rd and final match in Visakhapatnam was thus set up as the decider of the T20 Series and top ranked T20 team in ICC rankings justified their position.
Earlier in Australia, as widely expected after the Sydney ODI and Adelaide T20 victories, India went on not only to win the T20 Series but whitewash the hosts 3-0. After comfortably winning the first match in Adelaide India won the Melbourne T20 in a ‘similar’ fashion sealing the 3-match Series at 2-0. The third and final match in Sydney proved to be the most exciting one. Breaking the ‘similarity’ syndrome Australia this time decided to bat first and put up a mammoth total of 197 on the board with a brilliant century by Watson. The shortest-format Champs still won the match by 7 wickets with no ball to spare. The top order roared with explosive innings by Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. Raina and Yuvraj in the end scored 17 runs in the last over. It was exhilarating to witness some vintage cricket by Yuvraj Singh. However, the veteran southpaw is not getting enough time in the middle to prepare well for the upcoming ICC World T20. India start as hot favorites for the big event starting 8th March. But before that it is destination Dhaka, Bangladesh for the Asia cup that kicks off from 24th February. This Team India, a mixture of experience and youth, augurs well and significantly, Dhoni fielded the same eleven for the third consecutive time today.