Mirpur: India tonight stormed into the final of the Asia Cup T20 cricket tournament with another comfortable five-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, riding on Virat Kohli's unbeaten half-century.
It was their third successive victory, clinching a berth for the summit clash as they now stand on the cusp of their sixth continental championship trophy.
After the bowlers restricted Sri Lanka to 138 for nine, the 'Men In Blue' overcame the early hiccups as they reached the target in 19.2 overs. It might look close from the scoreboard but India always had control of the match.
The ever-consistent Virat Kohli once again made a significant contribution with a 56 not out off 47 balls with seven fours.
But the innings of the match was certainly played by Yuvraj Singh, who showed glimpses of his vintage self during a cameo of 35 from only 18 balls that had three sixes and two boundaries.
Yuvraj once again proved the old adage that class is permanent as he effortlessly shifted gears from the last match, where he just wanted to build a partnership with Kohli.
Tonight, he came in at 70 for 3 with the team still needing another 69 runs. By the time, he was gone trying to hook Thisara Perera, he added 51 runs in 5.4 overs with Kohli and more so ended whatever little chances that Sri Lanka harboured in the match.
He started with a slashed four off Dasun Shanaka, and then hit two sixes off Rangana Herat over long and deep mid-wicket. Another six over cover point and a four effectively closed out the match.
While Hardik Pandya (2) was fooled by an arm ball from Herath, a Mahendra Singh Dhoni straight six and a couple of boundaries from Kohli finished the proceedings.
India's opening pair of Rohit Sharma (15) and Shikhar Dhawan (1) did not fire as Nuwan Kulasekara bowled an inspired first spell getting the deliveries to move both ways.
One such delivery that moved in after pitching (away going for left-hander) found Dhawan poking at it to give a catch to Chandimal behind the stumps.
Rohit, who was in the playing eleven after passing a fitness test, hit three boundaries, but a pitched up outswinger saw him go for a drive only to give a low catch in the first slip with India down at 16 for two.
There was no stopping Kohli though as he took off from where he left against Pakistan. He covered the swing of the deliveries, never lost shape while hitting those lovely shots square of the wicket along with the cover drives.
Suresh Raina (25) played the second fiddle in the 54-run stand. The left-hander looked a bit more comfortable than the Pakistan match with the pitch offering comparatively less bounce.
But his trigger movement always suggested that he is expecting a short delivery and thus was committed to backfoot when he tried to loft a Shanaka delivery which Kulasekara fumbled before holding onto the catch.
India were not out of the woods completely at that point of time but Yuvraj came in and the match swung decisively in India's favour.
Earlier, Indian bowlers once again put up an impressive performance, restricting Sri Lanka to a modest 138 for nine in 20 overs.
Opting to bowl, young guns Pandya (2/27 in 4 overs) and Jasprit Bumrah (2/26) continued their stellar show as the island nation never really got going during their innings.
Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2/26 in 4 overs) showed brilliant control during the back-10 while veteran Ashish Nehra (1/23) once again showed why he is a class apart.
Such was India's dominance that their bowlers bowled 50 dot balls out of a possible 120 deliveries, which effectively meant 8.2 overs went without any runs being scored. India's potent new ball pair of Nehra and Bumrah were on target in the Powerplay overs once again.
Dinesh Chandimal (4) tried to make room by pushing towards leg-stump but the wily Nehra followed him by pitching one on the length that took an inside edge to land in Dhoni's gloves.
The ever-improving Bumrah then removed Shehan Jayasuriya (3) with a delivery that moved a touch and the resultant snick offered became Dhoni's second catch of the night.
The once dangerous Tillekaratne Dilshan (18 off 16 balls) nowadays plays from the memory and looks a pale shadow of his old self. His miseries were ended at the beginning of the 7th over.
Pandya, coming in as first change, struck with his very first delivery, as he dug one short. Dilshan went for the pull shot but only managed to hit straight to Ashwin at fine leg boundary.
Sri Lanka were struggling at 31 for three when stand-in captain Angelo Mathews joined Chamara Kapugedera.
The duo added 26 runs before Pandya again struck in his third over. Mathews got a fullish delivery outside off-stump and was played on trying to go for a cut shot.
At 57 for four, Milinda Siriwardana (22) joined forces with Kapugedera (30) as the duo played some counter-attacking shots. With a left-hander at the crease, Dhoni introduced Suresh Raina into the attack but it did not yield any immediate result.
The Lankan duo added 43 runs for the fifth wicket before Siriwardana's indiscretion cost him his wicket. Ashwin flighted one inviting the left-hander to step out. The length was altered and he did not reach to the pitch of the delivery while trying to loft it. Raina took an easy catch at long-on.
Kapugedera, who hit a few shots in between, was not allowed to play his natural game and ultimately perished, giving Bumrah his second wicket with Pandya taking a well-judged catch.
First Published On : Mar 2, 2016 11:48 IST