In what turned out to be a game where the pendulum swung back and forth, India held their nerve to clinch the opening T20I against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium by just two runs. Shivam Mavi had a dream debut by taking four wickets while Axar Patel and Deepak Hooda shared a vital unbeaten 68-run stand for the sixth wicket to help India recover from a spot of bother. Axar also bowled the last over and defended 12 runs.
Hooda, Axar, Mavi cook up India's narrow victory in opening T20I
The action and drama of last few overs
With 40 runs needed off the last four overs, and Dasun Shanaka still at the crease, Sri Lanka were certainly in the hunt. Shanaka lifted Umran Malik over deep square-leg to bring the equation down to 34 off 22. However, in the same over, he sliced a 155 kph delivery from Umran to extra cover, where Yuzvendra Chahal pouched a fine catch. Umran's sheer skiddy pace messed up Shanaka's footwork to some extent.
Despite losing Maheesh Theekshana at the other end, Chamika Karunaratne didn't give up. He pulled Harshal Patel for a six in the penultimate over. Hardik Pandya then trusted Axar to bowl the last over even though he himself had one over left to bowl. Karunaratne did land a six off the third ball of the over to bring the equation down to just 5 off 3 balls. But the visitors added only two more runs off the last three balls and also lost two wickets via the run-out mode as Sri Lanka slipped to a heart-wrenching loss. Karunaratne would be a dejected man as the last ball was kind of in the slot but the all-rounder couldn't get underneath it.
On the other hand, Axar held his nerve by watching the feet of the batter all the way through and bowled a few deliveries wide of off-stump. It basically turned into a cat and mouse game as Karunaratne left those deliveries that were bowled wide of off thinking that it would be adjudged as wides but it wasn't to be. Axar also mixed up his pace nicely and changed the angle.
Mavi's dream debut
The solid foundation for India's win was set-up by Shivam Mavi with the new ball. With the Wankhede track offering a decent covering of grass, the skiddy pace bowler aptly took advantage of the conditions by bowling a fuller length and looking for swing and seam movement. He castled Pathum Nissanka with a delivery that jagged back off the seam while Dhanajaya de Silva eked out a top-edge to Sanju Samson. In between, Kusal Mendis and Dhanajaya did strike a couple of boundaries each but to his credit Mavi kept bowling fuller and was rewarded.
In his third over, he dislodged the set Mendis with a slower one. When Mavi was called upon to bowl the 17th over, he removed Maheesh Theekshana with another slower one.
Shanaka's knock in vain
Meanwhile, Shanaka's 27-ball 45 ended up on the losing side. The Sri Lanka skipper, who has played breezy knocks at crucial junctures in the past, smashed a six each off Axar, Harshal Patel and Umran, and also collected three boundaries with an able ally in Hasaranga by his side. The duo added a 40-run stand in just under four overs to not just help Sri Lanka recover from a precariously placed 68 for 5 but also give the side a window of opportunity to chase down the target. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, neither of them could provide the finishing touches.
Axar-Hooda duet props up India
Earlier, India themselves were in a spot of bother at 94 for 5 after having lost the wickets of Shubman Gill, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan and Hardik. However, Hooda and Axar resurrected India's innings. Hooda took advantage of any delivery that was shorter in length from Theekshana and Hasaranga. In the last over, he also clubbed Rajitha's slower one for a six alongside scoring a boundary. Meanwhile, Axar took on Dilshan Madushanka and Rajitha with flicks and lofts to crunch two boundaries and a six. Eventually, their stand turned out to be a game-breaking one.
Brief scores: India 162/5 in 20 overs (Deepak Hooda 41*, Axar Patel 31*; Dhananjaya de Silva 1-6) beat Sri Lanka 160 in 20 overs (Dasun Shanaka 45; Shivam Mavi 4-22) by two runs