Sri Lanka batsman Kusal Perera fired from all cylinders to get the home side off to a winning start in the Nidahas T20I tri-nation series. The island nation Tuesday were boosted by Kusal’s blazing half century as an inspired Lanka strolled to a five-wicket win over India, who apparently have come into the tri-series as favourite, despite missing big name players.
Sri Lanka successfully chased down 174 runs with nine balls to spare. In the process, the home side registered only their third T20I win at the venue, among the 15 matches they played here.
Despite the day being the second working day of the week, the R Premadasa Cricket Stadium stands were packed with locals and the Sri Lanka cricketers, especially Kusal, ensured maximum entertainment.
Kusal on the day was flamboyant as he toyed with the young India attack. Off 37 deliveries, the left-handed batsman added 66 runs to the board in his comeback game. Kusal had missed the previous two T20Is for Sri Lanka - against Bangladesh last month – due to side strain injury. But there was nothing stopping him from guiding his side to victory against India backed by his seventh half-century in the format which involved six boundaries and four over boundaries.
Spinners Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal picked up two wickets each for India but their efforts went in vain as middle-order batsmen Dasun Shanaka and Thisara Perera remained unbeaten on 15 and 22 respectively to get the home side to the shore.
Earlier, India, who were asked to bat first, had recovered from an early scare riding on opener Shikhar Dhawan's blazing 49-ball 90. The tournament favourite lost makeshift captain Rohit Sharma for a duck in the fourth ball of the innings to pacer Dushmantha Chameera and eight deliveries later, the veteran Nuwan Pradeep dismissed Suresh Raina to leave India reeling on nine for two.
But the loss was recovered with two 50-plus run partnerships with Dhawan on the driving seat in both. Left-handed opener Dhawan first partnered with the right-handed Manish Pandey for a 95-run third wicket stand to take India to 104 before the latter was dismissed for 37. Dhawan continued to reign supreme as he then put on a 49-run partnership for the fourth wicket with youngster Rishabh Pant. Sri Lanka right-arm spinner Danushka Gunathilaka dismissed Dhawan in the last ball of the 18th over.
India by then however, already had 153 on the board for four wickets, powered by Dhawan's half a dozen fours and as many sixes. Dhawan registered his fifth half-century in the format. Pant was the last India batsman to get dismissed for 23 in the last ball of the innings with 174 on the board.
175/5 in 18.3 overs (Kusal 66, Thisara 22*) beat India
174/5 (Dhawan 90, Chameera 2/33) by five wickets