Indian middle-order batsmen came to the fore on Monday as the duo of Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik helped India beat Sri Lanka by 6 wickets in the fourth T20I of the ongoing Nidahas Twenty20 Tri-Series. The match was reduced to 19-overs-a-side affair after an hour was lost due to rain. India skipper Rohit Sharma yet again failed to score runs as he was dismissed for 11 runs by Akila Dananjaya in the second over. His partner Shikhar Dhawan soon followed suit as he was dismissed for 8 runs in the 4th over by Dananjaya. Next batsmen, Lokesh Rahul and Suresh Raina, were on course in reaching the 153-run target with some clever stroke plays in the middle. However, Rahul was dismissed hit-wicket in the 10th over becoming the first Indian to be out hit-wicket in T20Is. After surviving a close run-out chance in the previous ball, Rahul got out hit wicket while trying to work a Jeevan Mendis delivery into the leg side.
Next to go was Raina, who scored a quick-fire 15-ball 27 runs. Sri Lanka got their brief hopes high after having two new Indian batsmen, Pandey and Karthik, on the crease. Pandey and Karthik kept the run-rate going for the visitors and they made sure India crossed the finishing line. For the Lankans, Dananjaya was the lone economical bowler as he returned with figures of 2/19 in his four overs. Nuwan Pradeep and Jeevan Mendis took a wicket each. By virtue of this win, India has managed to avenge upon their five-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in the tournament opener.
Earlier sent into bat, Kusal Mendis once again shone brightly for Sri Lanka scoring 55 off 38 balls with the help of three fours and as many sixes before Indian bowlers led by Thakur brought their side back into the game with wickets at regular intervals. Thakur returned with impressive figures of 4/27, while young off-spinner Washinton Sundar (2/21) scalped two wickets as India made a strong fightback after leaking runs in the first 10 overs.
Vijay Shankar (1/30), Yuzvendra Chahal (1/34) and Jaydev Unadkat (1/33) also accounted for a wicket each. But initially, it looked Rohit Sharma's decision to bowl first backfired as Sri Lanka got off to a flier scoring 24 runs off the first two overs. Left-arm pacer Unadkat was taken to the cleaners as he gave away 15 runs in the first over. But India pulled things back a bit with two wickets in back-to-back overs. Thakur gave India the breakthrough when he dismissed Danushka Gunathilaka (17) in the third over with Suresh Raina taking a stunning catch at midwicket.
Sundar then cleaned up in-form Kushal Perera (3) in the next over as the batsman went for an expansive reverse sweep. But thereafter Kusal Mendis took the Indians bowlers to task in Upul Tharanga's (22) company as the duo added 62 runs for the third wicket to help Sri Lanka reach 94 for two after 10 overs.
Kusal Mendis continued his good form and did not spare a single Indian bowler while Tharanga preferred to play the second fiddle. Kusal Mendis used the crease to great effect to hit most of his scoring shots on his favourite left side. Shankar broke the dangerous-looking partnership when he bowled Tharanga in the 11th over.
But Shankar himself spoilt his good work, courtesy two bad deliveries which were clobbered over the boundary by Lankan stand-in skipper Thisara Perera (15). In between, Kusal Mendis brought up his fourth fifty in five innings in just 31 balls. But India pulled Sri Lanka back again with three more quick wickets in the form of Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis and set Kusal Mendis.
While the Lankan skipper perished in search of one too many big shots, caught by Chahal off Thakur, Sundar went through Jeevan Mendis's defence with his guile. The big blow for Sri Lanka came when Kusal Mendis departed next, giving away a soft catch to Rohit off Chahal. Thakur then dismissed Dasun Shanaka (19) and Dushmantha Chameera in consecutive balls in the 19th over to stand in with a chance to claim a hat-trick which didn't come.
(With PTI Inputs)