Kohli, Pandey lead the way as India complete 9-0 sweep

Thursday, 7 September 2017 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


ESPNCricinfo: Three-nil in the Tests, five-nil in the ODIs, a crushing eight-wicket win in the one-off T20I. Virat Kohli followed up successive hundreds in the last two ODIs with another display of ruthless efficiency in a chase, and ensured India left Sri Lanka no crumbs of comfort at the end of a long and chastening month-and-a-half for the hosts.

Set 171 to win, India romped home with four balls remaining and Manish Pandey making his third important contribution in a row, following up 50* and 36 in the last two ODIs with his maiden T20I fifty.

Kohli, the only batsman with 1000 T20I runs and a 50-plus average, ended his tour with 82 off 54 balls, an innings that oozed arrogance. It was present in the shots he played - an umpire-endangering blast down the ground and a bottom-handed whip through midwicket, both off Lasith Malinga, standing out among his seven fours and a six - but especially in the way he admonished himself, bat slapping pad in annoyance, for little moments of imprecision: for putting too much weight on a clip down the ground and ending up with a single rather than two, for placing front-foot slap a few inches closer to the extra-cover fielder than he would have liked and ending up with a single rather than four. It was as if the opposition did not matter.

Until he miscued a leg-side whip and holed out with India just 10 away from their target, it was easy to miss the assured hand played by Pandey in a 119-run partnership for the third wicket. He came in with India not entirely secure; they had lost both openers by the end of the sixth over, and Kohli not yet entirely settled, having just been beaten twice in a row by Malinga’s seam and Isuru Udana’s angle. But Pandey promptly calmed any nerves in the dressing room, turning the strike over unfussily with dabs and pushes either side of point, and switching gears with a straight six and a fierce, airborne cut in the 12th over, off Angelo Mathews.

With Kohli also blazing five fours and a six in that period, India sped from 47 for 2 after seven overs to 118 for 2 after 13, leaving themselves just 53 to get from the last seven overs. Four of those six overs were either Angelo Mathews’ medium-pace in conditions with no swing or seam or Seekkuge Prasanna’s quickish and not particularly ripping legspin, showing the lack of genuine wicket threat from Sri Lanka’s bowling in the middle overs.

The story was rather different when Sri Lanka batted. Sent in to bat after a 40-minute rain delay, their batsmen, Dilshan Munaweera in particular, seemed liberated by the switch to the shortest format as they sped to 60 for 2 in their first six overs. They finished well too, scoring 52 for 1 in the last five, with Ashan Priyanjan turning around a slow start and Udana clubbing the quicks powerfully down the ground.

They faltered in between, though, losing four wickets in those nine overs while scoring at under six-and-a-half per over.

For India, the middle overs illuminated the value of playing two wristspinners. Kuldeep Yadav only conceded 11 in his three overs in that period, and bowled Munaweera with a quick skidder, the batsman sending his bat flying in the direction of square leg in a sweaty-gloved attempt at a pull.

Yuzvendra Chahal gave away 13 in his one Powerplay over, Munaweera greeting him with successive sixes, over extra-cover and down the ground. He continued to go for runs in the middle overs, with Munaweera launching him for two more sixes in his third over and Thisara Perera pummeling him over long-on in his fourth. But he picked up three key middle-overs wickets: Angelo Mathews stumped while reaching out to a big legbreak and overbalancing; Perera bowled trying to cut one that cramped him for room; Dasun Shanaka lbw playing outside the line of a wrong’un.

And so, despite conceding 43, Chahal probably bowled the crucial spell for India to keep Sri Lanka in check. Kohli and Pandey did the rest.