Dhawan drives India to big win

Shikhar Dhawan (Getty Images)
Shikhar Dhawan (Getty Images)

Ranchi - Swashbuckling opener Shikhar Dhawan struck his maiden Twenty20 fifty to help India to a crushing 69-run victory over the visiting Sri Lanka in Pune on Friday.

Put into bat on a flat pitch, Dhawan's blistering innings of 51 off just 25 ball enable India to post a challenging 196 for six, despite a late hat-trick from Thisara Perera.

After losing two early wickets, Sri Lanka never looked like posting a challenging score and they only managed to post 127 for nine in their 20 overs.

It was a decisive return to form for Man of the Match Dhawan after a recent disappointing run on tour in Australia, where he managed just 90 runs from three games.

The left-hander unleashed an array of strokes all around the park, to help the hosts return to winning ways after their shock loss in the first game of the three match series on Tuesday.

Dhawan's opening stand with Rohit Sharma provided a solid 75-run base for the hosts to take control against an inexperienced Sri Lankan bowling.

Young medium-pacer Kasun Rajitha enjoyed a dream debut on Tuesday when he took three wickets but he was brought back down to earth in his second T20 international, conceding 45 runs in his wicketless four-over spell.

Dushmantha Chameera picked up Dhawan's wicket to put the brakes on India's run-rate in the seventh over.

But after a brief respite for the visitors, Hardik Pandya smashed a 12-ball 27, which included two sixes against Sachithsra Senanayake in the 17th over.

Sri Lanka's hopes were lifted when Perera took a hat-trick at the tail-end of the Indian innings, effectively preventing the hosts from pushing the score past the 200-run mark.

Perera sent Pandya, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh back to the pavilion in the 18th over to give T20 cricket its fourth hat-trick and a first by a Sri Lankan.

Australia's Brett Lee and New Zealand's Jacob Oram and Tim Southee are the other three bowlers to pick a hat-trick in the shortest format.

But Perera's heroics failed to inspire the visiting batsmen, who faltered against a disciplined Indian attack.

Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin struck with the very first legal delivery of the Sri Lankan innings to get veteran opener Tilllkaratne Dilshan stumped.

Sharing the new ball with Ashwin, left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra also hit the deck hard to rattle the Lankan top-order with two more strikes and put the visitors on the back foot.

Skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara tried hard to get the visitors out of trouble with a 52-run fourth-wicket stand but Dhoni's persistence with spin paid off.

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja snared Kapugedara and Chandimal with consecutive deliveries to foil any chance of an opposition chase while the asking rate steadily mounted.

Dhoni's sharp work behind the stumps was the reason behind Chandimal's departure as India tightened the noose.

The rest of the innings seemed like a mere formality with Ashwin and medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah bagging two wickets apiece in the final five overs.

Milinda Siriwardana made a valiant 28 not out only to be witness three ducks down the order as India relished a well-deserved win.

The two teams head to Visakhapatnam for the series decider on Sunday.

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