Sri Lanka overcame its disappointing 0-2 defeat in the Test Series with a 29-run comprehensive victory in the first T20I of the Royal Stag Cup at Nagpur. The visitors batted out India by smashing a total of 215 for 5 after being asked to bat first. India’s chase was well controlled by Gautam Gambhir but fell apart apart after his dismissal. The match was certainly over in the 12th over itself when Yusuf Pathan got out to reduce the score to 115 for 6.
The pitch at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur looked like an Australian one with plenty of bounce and pace available. Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma restricted the Sri Lankan opening pair of Dilshan and Jayasuriya to 17 in four overs. India gave an early life to Jayasuriya when Yuvraj Singh at point spilled a simple catch off Ishant’s bowling. Jayasuriya paid the Indians with a big over from Ashish Nehra which went for 22 runs. The left hander got out in the 7th over when his upper cut off Ashok Dinda flew into the hands of thirdman. Jayasuriya made 26 from 20.
After losing their first wicket at 43 in 6.2 overs, Sri Lanka started to take control of the game by going after the spinners. Pragyan Ojha got a severe beating as Kumar Sangakkara struck the ball sweetly over the infield and his first over was taken for 17 runs. Rohit Sharma provided a relief breakthrough for his team when Dilshan (34 from 33 balls) had stepped out too close to the pitch of the ball to york himself in the 13th over. India got back into the game in the next over when Mahela Jayawardene missed a cheeky late cut off Yusuf Pathan to get bowled and have his team slip at 126 for 3.
Much to Sri Lanka’s delight, Chamara Kapugedara came good with his lusty hitting to keep the momentum alive and put on a stand of 69 for the 4th wicket with his skipper. Sangakkara who had got his half century in 21 balls went onto score 78 from 37 balls (with 11 fours and 2 sixes) before getting run out at the non-striker end in the final ball of the innings. He got admirable support from Kapugedara (47 from 20 balls) and Angelo Mathews (15 from 4 balls with 2 sixes).
India had put down atleast four catches along with quite a few misfieldings. Ishant Sharma had dropped two catches, one off his own bowling and the other at deep mid wicket. Ashish Nehra making his T20I debut went for 52 in his 4 overs and Yusuf Pathan too went for the same amount of runs. Debutant Dinda showed his nippy pace and at the same time his erratic lines and lengths to give away 34 in 3. Ishant looked very fresh after a break to finish with 0 for 22 in 4 overs.
India got off to a sound start with Sehwag quickly getting into a groove but throwing it away in the 3rd over after slicing a lofted shot off Kulasekara to deep point. Sehwag smashed 26 from 14 balls in an opening stand of 32. Gambhir took the responsibilty on himself after Sehwag’s loss and manufactured some superbly timed and placed shots. In the 5th over, Gambhir struck a hat-trick of fours off Kulasekara and followed up with another hat-trick of fours against Lasith Malinga in the next over to take India to 77 for 1 in just 6 overs!
Gambhir reached a terrific fifty in just 19 balls with not even one powerful hit out of the ground. His fairy tale knock came to an end when he got bowled round the sticks to a yorker from Mathews which defeated his predetermined paddle. Gambhir struck 55 from 26 balls with 11 fours before getting out in the 9th over at 93 for 2. MS Dhoni who was along with him batting calmly all the while attempted a big slog off Sanath Jayasuriya but only to hole out at deep mid wicket in the 10th over.
In the 11th over, India lost the wickets of Rohit Sharma (run out after a mix up) and Yuvraj Singh (caught at long on off Mathews) to slip to 105 for 5. Yusuf Pathan went without a fight holing out to long on and Suresh Raina after a 13-ball 21 fell to a running catch at long on. India had lost five wickets for the addition of 27 runs in 21 balls when Yusuf got out. The match was a drag after India got out of the contest at 129 for 7 in the 14th over. Ashish Nehra (22 from 13) though surprised every one with a couple of sixes which helped India reduce the margin of defeat.
Sri Lanka’s bowling hero was Sanath Jayasuriya who had figures of 2 for 19 in 4 overs. Mathews complemented him with 2 for 30 in 4 overs. Kumar Sangakkara was the Man of the Match. The second and final T20I is at Mohali on the 12th.