India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd T20: Yuvraj's lack of time in middle a concern as Dhoni's men eye series win

  • FP Sports
  • February 14th, 2016
  • 18:30:03 IST

Stung by the humiliating defeat in Pune in the first T20I, India flexed their collective muscle over the inexperienced Sri Lanka side in Ranchi - Mahendra Singh Dhoni's home ground.

With a familial setting, came familiar conditions as Shikhar Dhawan led India's batting assault on a flat, dry pitch that slowed down later, before the bowler's efficiently finished off a near-perfect Twenty20 performance. The result, a 69-run win and it was as comprehensive as the margin suggests.

Buoyed by that overwhelming victory, India would look to continue the momentum and seal their second successive T20 series win when they take on Sri Lanka in the third and final Twenty20 International at the scenic (and inconveniently-named) Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy Andhra Cricket Association — Vishakapatnam District Cricket Association (ACA-VDCA) Cricket Stadium, in Visakhapatnam.

The Indian batting that came unstuck on the green top in Pune were much more at home on a slow strip at Ranchi, where they did not put a foot wrong. The bowlers, too, were in complete control, never letting the Sri Lankan batsmen dominate.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy was impressive and all his experiments, be it reshuffling of the batting order or bowling tactics, paid off.

File picture of Yuvraj Singh. AP

File picture of Yuvraj Singh. AP

India not only mastered the conditions in Ranchi but also executed their plans to perfection.

The flying start that openers Dhawan and Rohit Sharma provided India, gave Dhoni a chance to experiment with the batting order.

The move to send Hardik Pandya ahead of himself and Yuvraj Singh worked well as the young batsman came up with a fiery cameo.

In Australia, Pandya did not get an opportunity to show his batting prowess but he certainly made an impression in Ranchi on Friday. It required a lot of muscle power and accurate shot selection to get runs and Pandya did a decent job.

Dhoni had read the slow wicket well in Ranchi and employed smart bowling tactics, starting the attack with Ravichandran Ashwin, using all spin options available in the middle overs and holding back Jasprit Bumrah for as late as 16th over.

Though both Ashish Nehra and Bumrah did extremely well, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to be more effective in the coastal city here as the conditions would suit his swing bowling during the evening.

The captain was sharp behind the wickets too, effecting two smart stumpings.

It will be the batting strength that makes India comfortable favourites in Visakapatnam, where the pitch is expected to play similar.

The scenic stadium is hosting its first-ever T20 International. In the limited-over format, the stadium has hosted five ODIs previously, with India winning four of them. The Men in Blue did lose the most-recent encounter at the stadium, however, against an unheralded West Indian team, a defeat Dhoni had then attributed to 'unfair' amount dew on the outfield as India failed to defend a score of 288.

Incidentally, Dhoni also had said this at the end of that match against West Indies at this very venue:

"Yuvi is under a bit of pressure. We wanted Yuvi to be comfortable at his slot. He has batted well at No. 4. Give him a series. Raina has also done well at 5. We are just looking at options. We don't really have any options. I still stand by it. But at the same time, we need to see if we can take some pressure off Yuvi."

Almost presciently, the discussion after the win in Ranchi was about Yuvraj's batting as well. Yuvraj, who came to bat at number seven, did not get enough time and was out for a duck. It will be crucial for India's World Cup preparations if the elegant left-hander gets some time to spend in the middle before the next month's World Twenty20.

Dhoni has conceded that it will be difficult to send him up the order since the top-four are doing extremely well but showed intent of giving Yuvraj more chances to bat for longer period.

Dhawan was in terrific touch in Ranchi and he made batting look easy. Till now it was only Rohit who was tormenting the rival bowlers but with Dhawan also striking form, Indian batting wears a more assured look.

Ajinkya Rahane though struggled a bit, and Dhoni may be tempted to draft in Manish Pandey for the series-deciding match, even though he is not a big fan of disturbing a winning combination. Pawan Negi and Harbhajan Singh might finish the series without getting any game time too.

The Sri Lankan pace trio of Kasun Rajitha, Dushmantha Chameera and Dasun Shanaka had wreaked havoc in Pune but they were hammered around in Ranchi by the in-form Indian batsman and the visiting bowlers are unlikely to get any respite.

Thisara Perera got a hat-trick, which he said he did not realise at that time, but it was too little too late for the Sri Lankans.

Sri Lanka would hope that their batsmen do better, specially Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is the most experienced in the squad in the absence of many seniors. Dinesh Chandimal, the captain and the man in form, will have to once again do bulk of the scoring if he wants his side to pull off what will be quite a big upset.

With the series poised at 1-1, both the teams will be keen to end it on the winning note, going into Asia Cup and then World Twenty20 high on confidence.

T20 is a fickle format but it looks extremely difficult for the Sri Lankans to topple the home team unless they raise their game by several notches. India will only have to look back to the first match of this series and the last match at this venue to know an upset can happen anytime in cricket. All it would take is a wrong call in the toss and some excessive dew.

TEAMS (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (Captain), Dushmantha Chameera, Niroshan Dickwella, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Binura Fernando, Dilhara Fernando, Asela Gunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Kasun Rajitha, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Jeffrey Vandersay.

Match starts: 7.30pm (IST)

With PTI inputs

Updated Date: February 14, 2016 18:30:03 IST

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