Sri Lanka came within winning distance of the only T20 game in the series with India, but did not have a single decent partnership to close it out. India won by 39 runs.
Set to score 156, India’s lowest total in a game in this format against Sri Lanka, the opening pair was separated in the first over, with Pathan’s swinging the ball through the defence of T.M.Dilshan (0). Pathan, in fact, set the stage for the Indian comeback, trapping Mahela Jayawardene (26) in front, and inducing Upul Thranga (5) to nick off a nothing-ball: he claimed three top order wickets in his first, three-over spell. There was no real recovery from there. Ashwin made matters worse for Sri Lanka: Lahiru Thirimanne (20) missed a reverse sweep, and was bowled first ball of Ashwin’s spell.
Earlier, India’s in-form batsman Virat Kohli (68), and Ajinkya Rahane (21) put together 74, the highest second wicket partnership against Sri Lanka in a T20 game, to steer the total to respectable155 for 3.
On his way to guiding India, Kohli, who scored his first T20 fifty, surpassed the highest score made by an Indian against Sri Lanka in T20 – 64 that Sehwag got in Mohali in 2009.
India got to a rather indifferent start, losing Gambhir (6) early to the newly-capped Shaminda Eranga. Gambhir would have gone earlier, in the first over itself, if Eranga had caught Gambhir off Mathews in the fourth ball of the innings. Gambhir wanted to lift Mathews over mid-wicket, and ended up hitting the balls miles into the night sky.
Kohli and Rahane brought up the 50 for second wicket in 34 deliveries. Rahane perished in his anxiety to up the scoring – Mendis had tossed one up, and Rahane ended up hitting it back to the bowler. Kohli, who was middling the ball, picked a slower one of Eranga to hoist over mid-wicket. If Eranga had bowled at his normal pace, the delivery might have cleared the ropes, but the slower one ended up in the hands of Thirimanne at mid-wicket.
Earlier, having won the toss, Sri Lanka put India into bat, as a full house watched from the stands. I have never seen Pallekele stadium – built for the ICC ODI world cup this full during the world cup or later.
India: G.Ghambir b Eranga 6 (8b, 1x4), A.Rahane c & b Mendis 21 (25b, 1x6), V.Kohli c Thirimanne b Eranga 68 (48 b, 11x4, 1x6), S.Raina (not out) 34 (25 b, 3x4, 1x6), M.S.Dhoni (not out) 16 (14b, 2x4). Extras (lb 7, w 3) 10. Total (for 3 wickets in 20 overs) 155.
Sri Lanka bowling: Mathews 3-0-23-0, Eranga 4-0-30-2, Malinga 4-0-31-0, Perera 4-0-34-0, Herath 3-0-17-0, Mendis 2-0-13-1.
Sri Lanka batting: M.Jayawardene lbw Pathan 26 (19b, 5x4), T.M.Dilshan b Pathan 0 (1b), U.Tharanga c Raina b Pathan 5 (4b), L.Thirimanne b Ashwin 20 (15b), A.Mathews c Dhoni b Dinda 31 (29b, 3x4), J.Mendis c Rahane b Yadav 11 (15b), D.Chandimal c Kohli b Dinda 7 (11b), T.Perera (run out) 1 (5b), S.Eranga c Ashwin b Dinda 6 (7b), L.Malinga c Dhoni b Dinda 0 (2b), R.Herath (not out) 0 . Extras (lb 2, w 7) 9: Total: (all out in 18 overs) 116.