Dhawan back in form, Rahul sizzling as India score 201 for 6
Pune: Shikhar Dhawan roared back to form with a muscular half-century in company of a sublime KL Rahul as India posted a competitive 201 for 6 against Sri Lanka despite a middle-order collapse in the third T20 International here on Friday.
Dhawan, who has been under pressure for some time smashed 52 off 36 balls (7x4; 1x6) in his 97-run opening stand with the in-form Rahul (54 off 36 balls, 5x4;1x6).
However, the hosts suffered a middle-order collapse with Sri Lankan wrist spinners Wanidu Hasaranga (1-27) and chinaman Lakshan Sandakan (3-35) spun their web around the batsmen on a flat track.
But Manish Pandey, playing his first game of the tournament, hit an unbeaten 31 off 18 balls and Shardul Thakur once again revelled as a lower-order pinch-hitter (22 not out off 8 balls; 1x4, 2x6) to ensure that the hosts crossed 200-run mark.
Rahul set the tone playing a cut shot off rival skipper Lasith Malinga for his first boundary. Dhawan got an early 'life', when Dasun Shanaka dropped one at deep square leg. Rahul, then hit two consecutive boundaries, both drives, off Angelo Mathews as India raced to 22/0.
The visitors introduced off-spinner Dhananjaya De Silva in the fourth over, but Dhawan welcomed him with a four over long-on. Rahul then dispatched a Silva full-toss over long leg for a maximum as India amassed 13 runs in it.
Dhawan changed his gears as he hammered two boundaries in fifth over as India reached team total of 50.
Making optimum use of the life, Dhawan smashed back-to-back fours, slashing one over backward point and another through extra cover off pacer Lahiru Kumara. The duo was coasting along well as India after 9 overs were 82/0.
After two quiet overs, Dhawan smashed Hasaranga over deep mid-wicket for a six.
Soon after completing his 10th T20I fifty, Dhawan perished after giving a sitter to Dhanushka Gunathilika off Sandakan at deep mid-wicket. However his innings certainly will make Virat Kohli's choice of Rohit Sharma's partner difficult for the upcoming Australia series.
Sanju Samson (6) got his much-awaited chance as he was promoted at No 3 and smashed a six on the first ball but was trapped in the front by Hasaranga as India slumped to 106/2.
Sandakan then pegged back the hosts by removing Rahul and Shreyas Iyer (4) in the 13th over as the hosts were in spot of bother at 122/4. While Rahul was stumped, Shreyas gave a return return catch to Sandakan.
However, then skipper Kohli (26 off 17 balls, 2x4; 1x6) and Pandey tried to rally the innings before Kohli and Washington Sundar (0) were dismissed in the 18th over. But Shardul's slogging got India past par-score mark.