India will look to level the series and force a decider when they take on Sri Lanka in the second Twenty20 International (T20I) in Ranchi on Friday.
Having whitewashed Australia 3-0 in their own backyard, the Indians were expected to do well at home against the Lankans as they prepare to host the World T20 in March-April. But the youthful Sri Lankan team handed them a rude wake-up call.
The green pitch in the first match at Pune saw the hosts struggle against some quality pace bowling by the Lankans. Debutant pacer Kasun Rajitha proved to be the surprise package, troubling the Indian batsmen with pace, swing and appreciable movement off the pitch to end up with three top order wickets.
The 22-year-old enjoyed a memorable debut, bagging two wickets in his very first over in international cricket. The other Lankan pacers including Dasun Shanaka and Dushmantha Chameera also made merry on the green wicket.
The visitors were without a host of experienced players in the first T20I. Their regular T20 captain Lasith Malinga and Test skipper Angelo Mathews have been ruled out of the series. Malinga is nursing a knee injury while Mathews is down with a groin strain.
The experienced Tillakaratne Dilshan was ruled out of the opening game due to a hand injury while Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath were also missing from the line-up.
But the Lankans did not feel the absence of these star players as the youngsters more than made up with a superb performance. Another strong effort in the second game will not only seal the ongoing three-match series, but could also prove to be a major morale booster for the Lankans as they gear up to defend their World T20 title.
The Indians on the other hand, will be eager to restore lost pride. Although the batting department proved to be a flop show, the Indian bowlers gave a good account of themselves. Veteran pacer Ashish Nehra made a strong case for a spot in the squad for the upcoming WorldT20 with some excellent work that saw him finish with figures of 3/21 in three overs.
Young medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah did not manage a wicket, but gave away only 19 runs in four excellent overs. Star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin put in another good effort in the first match and gave the Indians hope with a couple of late wickets.
With the match being played in his hometown, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be hoping that his batsmen come up with a better show as the hosts seek to level the series.