Nagpur: Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara Wednesday showed the Indian batsmen that T20 cricket is not just about mindless slogging and demonstrated the necessity of a sound technique for consistent power-hitting.
It was Sangakkara’s 37-ball 78 (11×4, 2×6) which was the difference between the two sides as Sri Lanka comfortably won the first of two T20 Internationals at the VCA Stadium, in Jamtha, by 29 runs.
Sangakkara’s innings was an example of clean hitting, correct footwork and the ability to find the gaps with elan while most of the rival players batted as if they were looking to finish off the game in one over.
A target of 216 with an asking rate of close to 11 runs per over was always going to be challenging but not impossible. Save in-form Gautam Gambhir (55, 26 balls, 11×4), none of the other batsmen were ready to play sensible shots. The manner of the Indian middle-order’s caving in was a classic case of come, slog and perish.
India, who were coasting along at 93 for one, slumped to 129 for seven in a matter of 5.3 overs. When Suresh Raina holed out to Tillekaratne Dilshan at the long-on boundary off Muthumudalige Pushpakumara’s bowling, the chances of a win were as good as gone. In the end, India finished at 186 for nine, falling 29 short of the target.
Another aspect that made a difference was the fielding. While the Indians were guilty of dropping simple catches, the Lankans took everything that came their way. The star in that department would definitely be Lasith Malinga, who covered at least 20 yards to take a brilliant diving catch that dismissed Yusuf Pathan (0).
Earlier, Virender Sehwag started in characteristic manner, hitting Nuwan Kulasekera and Dilhara Fernando before an upper cut was pouched by Angelo Mathews at deep point. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni promoted himself at No.3 but didn’t do much during the 61-run second wicket partnership with Gambhir.
The Delhi opener seems to have carried his Test form into the shortest format as he notched his sixth T20 half-century off only 19 balls. In one Malinga over, he repeatedly bisected the off-side cordon to collect four boundaries. He also played some audacious paddle shots before it brought his downfall. His leg stump went for a walk and that was the turning point of the match. Dhoni (9) couldn’t clear the deep mid-wicket boundary off a Sanath Jayasuriya long hop.
Much was expected of Yuvraj but he only managed to find Kulasekera in the deep off Mathews.
While the Indian bowlers, especially Ashish Nehra and off-spinner Yusuf, were guilty of dropping it short, the Lankan bowlers reaped rich dividends by bowling a much fuller length.
The Lanka innings was dominated by a 69-run fourth wicket partnership between Sangakkara and Chamara Kapugedera. While Sangakkara used his feet to perfection against the spin trio of Pathan, Pragyan Ojha and Rohit Sharma, Kapugedera simply blasted the bowlers.
Ishant Sharma went wicketless but was the only bowler to earn some respect from the opposition batsmen. He was unlucky twice — when Yuvraj dropped Jayasuriya at cover in the first over of the evening and when, in the very next over, he failed to collect a simple return catch from Dilshan.
For debutant Ashok Dinda (1/34 in three overs and 19 runs), it was a dream start when he dismissed Jayasuriya caught at deep third man by Ishant. The youngster, however, couldn’t maintain the tempo as the vastly experienced Sangakkara gave him a taste of what international cricket is all about.