After India looked set to post 180 on the board, thanks to brilliant knocks by Shikhar Dhawan and Suryakumar Yadav, the hosts fought back valiantly to restrict the Men in Blue to 164. With Yuzvendra Chahal returning to his best, the Lankans failed to deliver, though Asalanka waged a lone battle.
'Promising' Samson fails to get a defining knock under his belt
'Captaining Rajasthan Royals has changed Sanju Samson the batsman completely, he's no longer reckless, he has got mature, he's the real deal now.' Well, these were a few of the comments on social media when the Kerala batsman, after smashing a six and a four each off Dananjaya's bowling, started taking doubles and singles in the sixth over. Truth be told, he has exhibited a more mature and composed version of himself since the second half of this year's IPL.
That was the case in the third ODI too, where the 'reckless' part of Sanju had broken up with him. So was the case in the T20I series opener as well, but that doesn't change the fact that he hasn't played that defining knock yet. And ultimately, that is what matters, given, in this gun batting line-up, there won't be many chances knocking at his door. Today, he was batting at #3 and had a lot of overs to leave behind a lasting impact, but all he could manage was another 'promising' 27. With just two T20Is left for India ahead of the WT20 and the likes of Ishan, Suryakumar, Pant and Iyer ahead in the pecking order of the classy batsman, the promise would no longer suffice, and only impactful performances would.
Shanka's questionable bowling changes
There have been talks about the animated exchange between Mickey Arthur and Dasun Shanaka, with the former getting slammed for his antics. But, strangely, Shanaka has got off easily when it comes to his tactics and especially the bowling changes, which have been far from ideal. In the second ODI, as well as the duo of Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar batted, Shanka served the win on a platter after he bowled a struggling Lakshan Sandakan to Chahar, who didn't hesitate in picking boundaries of his bowling, which changed the momentum of the game.
Even today, it was strange when he opened the bowling with Chamika Karunaratne and not Ishuru Udana with the new ball swinging, especially after Chameera's opening over. Similarly, he gave Akila Dananjaya his third over even after he was enduring a horrible day, having given 27 off his first two overs. And as expected, Dananjaya was punished for 14 in his third over. It was the most expensive over by any bowler since Dananjaya had himself delivered a 16-run sixth over. He could have easily used Dhananjaya de Silva instead, a tight off-spinner who has an ER 7.11 in T20 internationals, that too with a southpaw in the form of Dhawan in the middle. Though Shanaka is inexperienced at the top level, he will need to learn rather quickly.
Chameera building his reputation as an 'X-factor'
Too often, we see Sri Lankan pacers failing to deliver consistently. In fact, consistency is a concept which is still quite far off from the whole team at the moment. But Dushmantha Chameera is proving his credentials with every subsequent outing, especially in T20 internationals. This year, the right-armer has been impressive and taken 12 wickets in seven games at an ER of 6.57, and 56.7% of his deliveries have been dots, which is again remarkable, given he's an out-and-out attacking bowler.
In the first T20I against India, he made an immediate impact, when he bowled a swinging delivery upfront to outfox the man-in-form Prithvi Shaw. He troubled Samson too, with a bouncer roughening him up as it was targeting precisely his head, which is what makes his bouncers so effective. Now, at the death, on a slow pitch, a genuine quick is supposed to be easier to counter, but Chameera accepted the challenge, and with his diverse repertoire - bouncers, yorkers, slower deliveries - nailed the challenge. He gave away 15 in his last two and got rid of Hardik Pandya, to finish with another great outing. The Lankans have found a gem in Chameera.
Yuzvendra Chahal roars back
Let's admit it, we were all surprised when Yuzvendra Chahal was picked ahead of Rahul Chahar, especially after the latter delivered the finest bowling display by any Indian bowler in the ongoing tour in the third ODI. Chahar was the first-choice spinner in the second half of the England T20Is too, but the team management trusted Chahal against all the odds, and the RCB spinner delivered under pressure, to showcase his mettle. He showed impeccable control over his bowling, with an ER of 4.80 and delivered 45.8% dot deliveries. He ended up with figures of 1/19. He was certainly up to the mark after the high bar set by Chahar.
Now, what changed for him? For starters, he wasn't flat and bowling quick. He was bowling at the precise pace that was needed on the slow wicket and wasn't afraid to flight the ball consistently. He was also varying his pace well, which kept the batters guessing. And the beauty he delivered to Dhananjaya de Silva was arguably the ball of the game. It was slow, loopy, had the right amount of drift and turned sharply with a great bounce to bamboozle de Silva. Even when Asalanka was in the middle of a brilliant knock, Chahal didn't lose his effectiveness and beat him all ends up. It won't be wrong to suggest that the champion leggie is finally back in fine form.