Virat Kohli led from the front with some explosive batting as India thrashed Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the one-off Twenty20 International at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Wednesday.
Kohli plundered 82 runs off just 54 deliveries, smashing seven boundaries and a six as the visitors chased down the 171-run target with four balls and seven wickets to spare.
Manish Pandey gave Kohli excellent support from the other end. The right-hander from Karnataka brought up his maiden half-century in T20Is and remained unbeaten on 51 with four boundaries and a six studding his 36-ball innings.
The duo put together 119 runs between them off 77 deliveries after the early departure of Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Lokesh Rahul.
By the time Kohli fell to young pacer Isuru Udana — caught by Dasun Shanaka while trying to clear the mid-wicket fence — the Indians were on the threshold of victory, with 10 runs needed off nine balls.
For Sri Lanka, veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna and Isuru Udana took a wicket each.
Rohit and Rahul had put the visitors off to a promising start. But Rohit virtually threw away his wicket with a poorly attempted slog off Malinga, which saw Thisara Perera running in from mid-on to latch onto the skier.
Rahul departed exactly three overs later thanks to a brilliant diving catch by Dasun Shanaka at cover off Seekkuge Prasanna’s bowling.
But that was the last bit of celebration that the Lankans will manage for a long time as Kohli and Pandey came together to ensure a comfortable victory for India.
Pandey hit the winning runs in style, hitting Thisara Perera for a boundary to the mid-off fence which also brought up his half-century.
Earlier, Sri Lanka rode on Dilshan Munaweera’s 29-ball brisk half century to post 170/7.
Put in to bat after a rain-delayed start, the hosts lost the opening duo of skipper Upul Tharanga (5) and Niroshan Dickwella (17) within the first five overs to totter at 46/2.
India’s T20 specialists — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah — gave the visitors a perfect start to remove the opening duo.
Bhuvneshwar got rid of Tharanga with a perfect in-swinger as the ball crashed into his middle stumps before Bumrah, who was bludgeoned for three boundaries in his first over, came back to castle Dickwella in the fifth over of the innings.
Coming in at No.3, Munaweera (53 from 29 balls, 5*4, 4*6) saved the hosts from the blushes with a fighting half century that came off 26 balls before all-rounder Ashan Priyanjan’s unbeaten run-a-ball 40 helped them to a healthy total.
Munaweera and Priyanjan’s 37-run stand for the fourth wicket was the only highlight of the Sri Lankan innings which once again derailed at a crucial juncture, thanks to the Indian spin duo of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
Towards the end, all-rounder Isuru Udana slammed an unbeaten 10-ball 19 but more importantly chipped in with a 36-run undefeated eighth-wicket stand with Priyanjan to help the Sri Lankans go past the 150-run mark.
Chahal was the wrecker-in-chief picking three for 43, while Kuldeep (2/20) applied the brakes on the hosts’ scoring as India aimed to finish off their tour on a winning note.
India: 174/3 (Virat Kohli 82, Manish Pandey 51 not out) vs Sri Lanka: 170/7 (Dilshan Munaweera 53, Ashan Priyanjan 40 not out, Isuru Udana 19 not out, Yuzvendra Chahal 3/43, Kuldeep Yadav 2/20).