KL Rahul    AFP
KL Rahul AFP

On a two-paced track at Cuttack, India have amassed 180 for 3 in the T20I series opener versus Sri Lanka. India lost another toss under Rohit Sharma. However, they will be confident of defending the total with in-form bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Riding on KL Rahul‘s 61 and Manish Pandey – MS Dhoni’s cameo, India have given themselves a good platform to defend amidst dew.

Thisara Perera won the toss and elected to bowl. India brought in Rahul in absence of Shikhar Dhawan. The left-hander has been rested after his heroics in the ODIs. Head coach Ravi Shastri had stated recently that Murali Vijay and Dhawan are the first-choice openers for South Africa tour, with a view to accommodate right-hand left-hand combination. Sourav Ganguly also favoured Dhawan-Vijay for openers’ slot. The pressure was on Rahul, but he was up for the challenge.

Losing his skipper Rohit, on 17, Rahul stitched a half-century stand with Iyer. The duo kept the runs coming with regular boundaries. Rahul was hit on the groin in the 9th over. On the very next ball, he pulled one over deep fine leg for the first six of the match. Such was Rahul’s intention.

Note: The feature of Rahul’s knock was his sublime flicks and playing with soft hands.

Rahul notched up his second half-century. Iyer was nudging the gaps and giving good company, before falling for 24. He tried to make room and play a cut, got a thick edge and was taken by Niroshan Dickwella. Dhoni walked in at No. 4 amidst (obviously) loud cheer. The former Indian skipper almost took Rahul apart with his first four off the innings.

Crossing three figures, India scored the highest score at the venue (refer to India versus South Africa 2015 2nd T20I scorecard). Rahul, against the run of play, missed a slower one from Perera. His stumps were dislodged for 61. Dhoni and Pandey took time to get going before momentum shifted courtesy 17th over. Pandey took on Dushmantha Chameera and bludgeoned 19 runs. His six, moving across leg stump, over deep mid wicket was the shot of the innings.

Sri Lankan bowlers resorted to slower deliveries to keep the batsmen guessing. While Angelo Mathews and Akila Dananjaya were kept at bay, India took a liking for Chameera. Even Perera leaked runs in the death overs. Pandey-Dhoni triggered the total in excess of 150. There wasn’t a flurry of boundaries barring the odd overs but they continued to run hard.

Overall, a target of 181 doesn’t seem threatening along with plenty of dew. India would, however, fancy their chances against an erratic batting lineup.

Did You Know: Rohit becomes the sixth Indian to lead in T20Is. In addition, he also joined Virat Kohli in the elusive 1,500-run club. He is India’s second highest run-scorer in the format.

Brief scores

India 180 for 3 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 61, Shreyas Iyer 24, MS Dhoni 39*, Manish Pandey 33*; Angelo Mathews 1 for 19, Akila Dananjaya 0 for 30) vs Sri Lanka.