Sri Lanka's captain Dasun Shanaka (left) hugs Bhanuka Rajapaksa to celebrate their win against India in Dubai on Tuesday. AP
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
Dasun Shanaka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa held their nerves to steer Sri Lanka to a nail-biting six-wicket victory over India after openers Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis set the tone in their Asia Cup match on Tuesday.
After restricting India to 173/8, Lanka chased down the target for the loss of four wickets. This was Lanka’s third successive successful chase in the tournament which propelled them to the top.
India did make some in-roads through spinners but failed to thwart a spirited Lanka. Openers Nissanka (52) and Mendis (57) gave Lanka a blazing start and decimated a toothless Indian attack completely. Both the batsmen added 97 runs for the first wicket and set the tone for the rest of the innings.
Nissanka inning was peppered with four boundaries and two over the fence hits while Mendis hit four fours and three sixes during his stint at the crease. Lanka openers toyed with a weakened Indian bowling attack and hit them all over the ground at their will.
They gave a feeling of déjà vu, reviving the memories of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam putting Indian attack to sword on the same ground ten months ago in the World Cup.
But Yuzvendra Chahal bowled a brilliant spell and tried to pull the things back. He got three Lankan batsmen out in quick succession to revive some hopes of a comeback.
Chahal had Nissanka caught by Rohit to break the opening stand, but the damage was done. Three balls later, he trapped Charith Asalanka to bring a temporary joy to the Indian camp and lift the mood.
Ashwin also sprang into action and caught Danushka Gunathilaka plumb in front of the wicket, reducing Lanka to 110/3. In his next over, Chahal trapped Mendis to leave Lanka tottering at 110/4.
But Rajapaksa (25) and Shanaka (33) played with determination and made sure that they don’t lose any more wickets. They added an unbeaten 62 runs for the fifth wicket as Lanka got over the line with one ball to spare.
The only way India can still qualify for the final is if Pakistan lose both their remaining matches and India beat Afghanistan, then all three teams will be tied on two points each and run rate will come into play.
Earlier, India got off to a faltering start as they lost two wickets with just 13 runs on the board. Theekshaan trapped a timid KL Rahul in front of wicket to give Lanka first breakthrough as India lost the first wicket for 11 runs. Lanka struck again in the quick succession and this time around it was Madhushanak, who rattled the stumps of the star batsman Virat Kohli.
Kohli was playing across the line and the ball skid through between bat and pad, hitting the stumps as India were reduced to 13/2. Rohit Sharma played a captain’s knock and led from the front. He knuckled down to build the innings.
Rohit and Suryakumar added 97 runs for the third wicket to pull India out of the rot. They played cautiously and kept the score board ticking with one and twos, hitting occasional boundaries.
Rohit kept on taking the calculated risk to maintain the run rate. He brought up his fifty with a boundary off 32 balls. After reaching the fifty, the Indian captain started cutting loose and took 18 runs off De Silva in the 12th over with the help of two sixes and one four.
When Rohit and Suryakumar were batting, India looked set to post a total of 190 plus. But Lanka’s bowlers did a commendable job as they pulled it back miraculously.
Karunaratne got rid of Rohit by getting him caught by Nissanka. The dismissal of Rohit threw the cat among the pigeons as the Indian batsmen lost wickets in bundles. Rohit hit five boundaries and four over the ropes in his innings of 72 off 41 balls.
Soon after Rohit was dismissed, Suryakumar holed out to Theekshana off Madhushanka. Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant added another 30 runs for the fifth wicket and took the score to show some resistance.
Captain Dasun Shanaka struck to get rid of Pandya and after that Lankan bowlers ripped through the Indian bating line-up. Madhushanka uprooted the stumps of Deepak Hooda after getting Pant caught by Nissanka. Bhuvneshwar Kumar failed to open his account.
Only Ravichandran Ashwin scored an unbeaten 7-ball 15 to propel the score past 170. The last four batsmen could only add 15 runs to the total. Eight batsmen contributed only 60 runs in the Indian total.
India, who won the previous Asia Cup in 2018 played in a 50-over format, came in as pre-tournament favourites but lost their first two Super Four matches to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
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