KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan smashed half-centuries and a powerful cameo from Manish Pandey (31* off 18) and Shardul Thakur (22* off 8) powered India to 201/6 in the third and final Twenty20 International at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune on Friday.
Winning the toss for the first time in the series, Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga invited the hosts to bat, a decision that his counterpart Virat Kohli said that they initially wanted as well to throw some challenge to the batting department.
On a batting friendly surface, India were off to a good start with openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan stitching 97 runs. Dhawan, on a comeback, was initially patchy, and was assisted with a dropped catch as early as the second over. The southpaw went after Angelo Mathews and the ball head straight towards Dasun Shanaka who was stationed at deep square leg. The fielder made a meal of his judgement by jumping forward which proved to be too high. To add insult to injury, the ball parried away to the fence.
Dhawan, who was on a single digit score, capitalised on the dropped catch and went on to smash a brilliant half-century. However, Sandakan, introduced early in the innings, made his presence felt. He dismissed Dhawan for 52 off 36 (7 boundaries and 1 six) and then returned to claim the wickets of Rahul, who was stumped behind by Kusal Perera. Rahul’s carried on his impeccable form and notched up 54 off 36 balls – his innings studded with five boundaries and the solitary six.
Sanju Samon, included in the side at the expense of Rishabh Pant, looked good after smashing a six off the first delivery he faced, but perished in the next after he was trapped lbw off Wanindu Hasaranga.
Shreyas Iyer’s tale too followed the same template as Samson’s. After registering a boundary, the Mumbai batsman was flummoxed by a slower one from Sandakan, who took a simple catch off his own bowling in the 13th over.
Sri Lanka bounced back really well into the game and were on track to restricting India to less than 180. However, Shardul Thakur’s unbeaten 22 off 8 (2 sixes and 1 boundary) coupled with Manish Pandey’s 31 not out off 18 helped India cross the 200-run mark. Kohli, who batted at No. 6 – the lowest at T20Is – added 26 off 17 before he was run out in the 18th over.
For Sri Lanka, Sandakan returned with impressive figures of 3/35 in his 4 overs.
Brief scores: India 201/6 (KL Rahul 54, Shikhar Dhawan 52; Lakshan Sandakan 3/35) versus Sri Lanka