Sri Lanka completed a very special victory in Colombo on Thursday, defeating India, albeit a depleted side, by seven wickets in the decider to claim the T20I series 2-1.
Sri Lanka took 14.3 overs to chase down the target of 82 in the third T20I, losing three wickets en route to claiming their first-ever series victory in the format against India and first across formats in 21 attempts since August 2008.
Earlier, India’s young batsmen’s inability to tackle spin stood exposed in the face of some spirited bowling and fielding by Sri Lanka, who stopped their Asian neighbours to a paltry 81 for eight in the series-deciding third Twenty20 International.
Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (4/9) made the Indians dance to his tunes on his 24th birthday while Akila Danajaya too troubled the young batsmen, who are used to playing on placid IPL tracks where the ball comes on to the bat nicely.
The foot work of the Indians against the spinners did not inspire any confidence, looking into future, as they remained doubtful whether to play on front-foot or the back-foot.
Hasaranga returned exceptional figures as he took four wickets and conceded only nine runs in his four overs.
Off-spinner Danajaya did not take any wicket but gave away just 11 runs in his four overs.
Only three Indian batsmen could manage the double-digit score with number seven Kuldeep Yadav being the best with his 23-run unbeaten knock.
Such was the dominance of the home bowlers that India hit only four boundaries in entire 20-over innings.
The Sri Lankans threw themselves on the field, plucking some sensational catches and stopping runs as well with agile efforts.
The pitch was much better than the one used for the second match and it helped the bowlers as well as stroke-play, making it an even contest.
Devdutt Padikkal, who looked in sublime touch, and Ruturaj Gaikwad, played some fluent shots before the hosts suddenly turned the heat on the Indians.
First Padikkal (9) was run out and and then wrist spinner Hasaranga caused a flutter by dismissing Sanju Samson (0) and Gaikwad (14) in a space of three balls.
Samson went on back foot to miss the line when he should have been defending on the front foot while Gaikwad offered the front foot but was hoodwinked by a googly and was adjudged leg-before.
It left India reeling at 25 for four inside the Power-play.
If that was not enough, the home skipper piled on India’s misery by pulling off a stunning return catch to spell the ouster of Nitish Rana (6). At the half-way stage, India were reeling at 39 for five.
From there on, it was a matter of when and how the Indian innings would fold.