For the third game in a row, India had some tense moments after the loss of early wickets. However, the middle-order, led once again by Virat Kohli, sealed their qualification for the Asia Cup final with a five-wicket victory in a tricky chase against Sri Lanka at the Shere Bangla Stadium on Tuesday.
After restricting Sri Lanka to 138 for nine in their allotted 20 overs, India’s were left in a spot of bother as both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were out with just 16 runs on the board. As was the case against Pakistan on Saturday, Kohli led the team out of the tight spot with a fine, unbeaten 56 off 46 balls.
It was Kohli’s assured approach that saved India against Pakistan after Mohammad Amir had prised out three quick wickets. And it was the vice-captain who again led the way.
His 54-run partnership with Suresh Raina (25) proved to be the vital phase in the chase as both batsmen refrained from risk-taking and steered India into a position of strength. Later, Kohli pieced together a 51-run partnership with Yuvraj Singh (35), whose big hits not only ensured India kept pace with the required run-rate but also gave a glimpse of his big-hitting ways.
Yuvraj smashed three sixes that dashed any hopes for Sri Lanka to force a win. There was a worrying moment after Yuvraj fell with Hardik Pandya (2) following him soon after with 14 still needed off the last two overs.
However, with Dhoni joining Kohli at the crease, there were no hiccups for India. Dhoni came in and smashed a trademark six before Kohli ensured victory with a boundary in the final over.
However, the glue that held the chase together was Kohli. The aggressive batsman did not go hell for leather from the word go but ensured the scorecard kept ticking.
He played traditional cricketing shots, including crisp cover drives, and targeted the gaps rather than go for expansive shots initially. He tactfully changed gears when Yuvraj joined him. Sensing the need to up the scoring rate, both began attacking. However, as Yuvraj found the sweet spot, Kohli smartly held back to ensure his stay till the end.
Earlier, India’s bowlers maintained their all-round effectiveness with all members chipping in. Pace spearhead Ashish Nehra continued with his consistent display, scalping a wicket and bowling 12 dot balls that pushed the struggling Sri Lanka batsmen further on the backfoot.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/27) and Hardik Pandya (2/26) again delivered and ensured Sri Lanka could not make a push in the middle overs. Spinner R Ashwin, brought in to keep the batsmen in check, also chipped in with two wickets and bowled 10 dot balls.
Sri Lanka batsmen did not help their cause by playing poor shots. The defeat left Sri Lanka third in the points table, behind Bangladesh. With their final game pitting their shaky batting line-up against Pakistan’s formidable pace attack, the World T20 champions are in danger of being eliminated from the final.