It was yet another instance of opportunity lost for Sri Lanka, as India completed a successful tour of the island nation during which they lost only one ODI. The latest win was built on the back of two commanding performances, both by players who have been India’s heroes on this tour. After being sent into bat, Virat Kohli continued his imperious form, registering his highest T20 score whilst making the bowlers seem listless. Then, with the ball, Irfan Pathan took out the top three Lankan batsmen to seal an easy victory for India.
Although the margin of triumph for India was a comfortable one in the end, Sri Lanka did have their chances but failed to capitalise on them, and ended up handing the game to India on a platter. After getting rid of Gautam Gambhir early, the Lankan bowlers also managed to downplay the magic of Kohli thanks to some excellent bowling in the middle and the end overs. Both the spinners Rangana Herath and Jeevan Mendis were successful in restricting the Indian batsmen. In fact, even the set Ajinkya Rahane struggled to get the spinners away. Also, at the death, Lasith Malinga bowled a tight couple of overs as Suresh Raina, and M S Dhoni, in particular, failed to connect.
At the halfway stage of the game, the hosts would have been the camp that was feeling better. After all, they had successfully restricted India to under 160 in spite of their nemesis Kohli going berserk again. It was a T20 score they should have been confident of chasing. India, however, had other ideas, and just never let them settle. At the same time, it is also true that the Lankans did not help themselves by playing some rather poor shots at the beginning of the innings.
Meanwhile, all credit to Irfan for another match-winning performance. On days when the ball swings, Irfan is a changed bowler. Tuesday was one such occasion. Right from ball one, the left-arm seamer got his deliveries to talk. It resulted in some wides, but, at the same time, Irfan was also rewarded for some incisive bowling. Tillakartne Dilshan was castled by one that beat his defence comprehensively in the very first over of the innings while Upul Tharanga just poked his bat out at an away going delivery. At the other end, Mahela Jayawardene was in sublime touch and also caressed Umesh Yadav for four boundaries in an over. His fight too was ended by Irfan though, who again used movement to trap Jayawardene in front of the stumps.
Once Lanka had lost their top three, it was always going to be an uphill task. Angelo Mathews tried his best to keep Lanka in the hunt, but found little support before himself perishing. Like on most occasions during this series, Lanka played themselves into a competitive position, only to blow it away. In other words, India found different ways to dig themselves out of the whole. That, in short, summarises India’s tour of Sri Lanka.
--By A Cricket Analyst