Colombo, March 6 : Kusal Perera’s brilliant 66 off 37 balls and some crucial contributions from the middle-order helped Sri Lanka beat India by five wickets in the opening match of the Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 International (T20I) cricket tri-series here on Tuesday.
After the Indian batsmen put up a decent target of 175, their bowlers failed to make a mark as the hosts hammered the bowlers all around the park. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal (2/37) and Washington Sundar (2/28) provided the crucial breakthroughs to control the run-flow.
Towards the end, Dasun Shanaka (15 not out) and Thisara Perera (22 not out) played sensibly and helped their team clinch the issue.
Chasing 175, Sri Lanka got off to a bad start, losing opener Kusal Mendis (11) in the second over of the innings.
But Danushka Gunathilaka (19) and in-form Perera forged a crucial 58-runs partnership which saw some brilliant strokeplay.
Just when things seemed good in the middle, Gunathilaka was dismissed by pacer Jaidev Unadkat in the fifth over when scoreboard was reading 70/2.
Unperturbed by the fall of wicket, Perera kept on punishing the Indian bowlers with incoming batsman Dinesh Chandimal (14).
In the ninth over, Chandimal was sent packing by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Soon, Perera was dismissed by spinner Washington Sundar to bring India back into the game.
Upul Tharanga (17) also failed to utilise the start he got and was bowled by Chahal.
Now with the scoreboard reading 136/5, Shanaka and Perera waited for the bad balls and rotated the strike. Towards the end, Indian bowlers felt the pressure and leaked the runs — and as a result, India lost the issue.
Earlier, opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan cracked 90 off 49 deliveries to drive India to 174 for five.
The left-hander struck six fours and equal number of sixes, while scoring his fifth T20I fifty as he shared a crucial 95-run third-wicket stand with Manish Pandey (37 off 35) to take the visitors to a strong total.
The pair of Dhawan and Pandey had joined hands after India were 9/2, following the dismissals of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina.
After the hosts asked India to bat, Jeevan Mendis took a sharp running catch from mid-off to dismiss Rohit Sharma (0) in the fourth delivery of the first over bowled by paceman Dushmantha Chameera.
Left-hander Raina (1) exposed his stumps, allowing himself room to hit paceman Nuwan Pradeep but the Indian failed, with the ball rattling his stumps.
Then Dhawan and Pandey began India’s innings construction. While Dhawan was aggressive against the Sri Lankan pacers who were throwing bouncers, Pandey was resolute, trying to find singles and twos and odd boundries.
Two of Dhawan’s sixes came off top-edges over the keeper on the bouncers delivered by Pradeep. He was good on the off-side too, cutting and driving with aplomb.
Pandey struggled with his big shots and ine one desperate attempt which saw him drag leg-spinner Mendis to the hands of Danushka Gunathilaka at deep mid-wicket.
Dhawan, however, continued, his assault, hitting two sixes against Chameera. Leg-spinner Akila Dhananjay and off-spinner Gunathilaka also faced his ire.
He was dismissed after failing to clear Thisara Perera at long-off off Gunathilaka.
Later, Rishbah Pant struggled, scoring a run-a-ball 23 as he and Dinesh Karthik (13 not out off six) took India to 174/5.
Brief scores: India: 174/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 90, Manish Pandey 37; Dushmantha Chameera 2/33, Danushka Gunathilaka 1/16) vs Sri Lanka: 175/5 (Kusal Perera 66; Washington Sundar 2/28)