Rout map to a world record

India equalled the world record for most consecutive T20I wins with their 12th successive victory as they defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets in the third and final match in Dharamsala to make it a hattrick of 3-0 sweeps at home. They are now tied with Afghanistan and Romania, and only the latter’s streak is ongoing.

Shreyas Iyer’s form remained the standout of the series as he took charge of Sunday’s chase of 147, just like he had on Saturday. He ended the three-match contest with three half-centuries – 57 off 28, 74 off 44 and 73 off 45, all unbeaten knocks at a cumulative strike-rate of 174 as against a career T20 strike-rate of 130.

 

The Mumbai batter was needed to guide the pursuit again after Rohit Sharma, Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda and Venkatesh Iyer managed a highest score of 21 between the four of them. Shreyas and Ravindra Jadeja ushered in the win in the 17th over— two balls before they had done on Saturday—with an unbroken 45-run stand.

That there was a bit of a target in the first place was down to Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka, who followed up his unbeaten 47 off 19 in the second T20I with 74 not out off 38 on Sunday night. Shanaka’s calculated hitting after he chose to bat first revived the visitors from a horror start of 11 for 3, which was to worsen to 29 for 4, and then 60 for 5 at the start of the 13th over.

This was after India had rested Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal, and gone in with an almost entirely changed attack of Avesh Khan, Mohammed Siraj, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav and Harshal Patel, the last one the only specialist bowler to play through the series.

Inexperienced, but potent

The first 15 overs of the Sri Lankan innings were an exhibition of discipline and control by an attack largely inexperienced at this level. Avesh and Siraj had set the tone in an outstanding Powerplay, in which they pitched up probably only two deliveries. The first, from Avesh, was smashed straight to cover by Pathum Nissanka, while the second, from Siraj, was sliced over point for four by Charith Asalanka. That would remain the only boundary in the first half of the Sri Lankan innings until Siraj’s misfield at long leg allowed the second off the last ball of the 10th over.

Avesh and Siraj bowled unchanged through the Powerplay, after which Sri Lanka were left tottering on 18 for 3. The pitch offered seam and there was some swing in the mountain air. And the Indian new-ball pair made it zip as they constantly hit a good length as if on the first morning of a Test match. It was an awkward pitch map for the batters, who were neither able to ease forward or rock back. The top order soon fell apart to helpless mishits. Siraj’s opening spell read 3-0-9-1, Avesh bettered it with 3-1-4-2, even managing to squeeze in a maiden amid field restrictions.

Kuldeep was playing his first T20I since July last year, but he kept up the strangle with fine accuracy. Even as the Sri Lankans tried to sweep him off his rhythm, he conceded only 22 in his four overs, some lovely wrong ‘uns beating the bat without bringing him a wicket.

Bishnoi, meanwhile, struck with his third ball, luring Janith Liyanage forward and bringing it back in to bowl him in the ninth over. The 21-year old’s command led Sunil Gavaskar to remark on air that for someone who bowled mostly googlies, Bishnoi’s control was remarkable.

Serial hitter

So far, so good, until the death overs arrived. India had gone for 72 from the last four overs on Saturday, they would go for 68 from the last five on Sunday. Only the cast that took punishment was different. In the second T20I, it was Harshal (42), Bhuvneshwar (16) and Bumrah (14). In the third, it was Harshal (24), Avesh (19), Siraj (13) and Bishnoi (12). Only the aggressor remained the same—Shanaka.

From 78 for 5 after 15, Shanaka took Sri Lanka to 146 for 5 in 20. His hitting in front of square on the off was a sight, as he repeatedly beat the sweeper in the deep with his placement. This late barrage is clearly something India have to work on during their next T20I contest, against South Africa at home in June, as they build for the T20 World Cup in October.

The chase wasn’t big, but India were playing one less batsman as Ishan Kishan had been ruled out after the blow to the helmet he took in the second T20I. They had chosen to play two wrist-spinners instead of bringing in Mayank Agarwal, so Samson opened with Rohit, and Harshal was slotted at No. 7.

Shreyas stepped in once more. Two early, successive fours summed up his dominance. He backed away to Lahiru Kumara, who followed him with a bouncer. Shreyas walloped it over backward point for four. The next ball was eased through the covers in a return to convention. He’d finish the series by whipping Kumara to the midwicket rope.

 

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 146/5 in 20 overs (Dasun Shanaka 74 not out of 38 balls; 9×4, 2×6; Avesh Khan 2/23) lost to India 148/4 in 16.4 overs (Shreyas Iyer 73 not out off 45 balls; 9×4, 1×6; Lahiru Kumara 2/31) by six wickets. PoM: Shreyas Iyer, PoS: Shreyas Iyer

Stat: 204*: Shreyas Iyer has the second highest tally for an unbeaten batsman in a T20 series or tournament after David Warner, 217*, also against Sri Lanka (2019).

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