Chahal bags four in India's biggest T20 win
Chasing 181, Sri Lanka crumbled to 87 all out as India's bowlers mastered dew-sodden conditions at the Barabati Stadium
India 180 for 3 (Rahul 61, Dhoni 39*, Pandey 32*) beat Sri Lanka 87 (Chahal 4-23, Pandya 3-29) by 93 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Dew was always going to play a role in the first T20I at the Barabati Stadium, and both teams knew it. Sri Lanka picked just one specialist spinner, packed their side with seam options, and gave themselves the early advantage by winning the toss.
Unlike a lot of T20 games in India, however, there was dew all the way through this one, and not just in the second innings, and one set of bowlers handled it far, far better than the other. Sri Lanka's quicks struggled: Nuwan Pradeep and Thisara Perera sent down five full-tosses in the last two overs of India's innings, and MS Dhoni and Manish Pandey clattered two of them for four and two for six. In all, India scored 61 in their last four overs.
India, unlike their opponents, trusted their spinners to deal with the dew and ran away to their biggest win in T20Is. Both their wristspinners prospered, and Yuzvendra Chahal finished with figures of 4 for 23. Chasing 181, Sri Lanka crumbled against pressure from India's bowlers and pressure from the scoreboard, and crashed to 87 all out, their innings lasting just 16 overs, featuring only six boundaries.
If the bowlers were able to control the slippery ball and land it on a decent area, there was help to be had from a two-paced surface. Sri Lanka did this patchily in the early part of India's innings. Pradeep and Angelo Mathews extracted unexpected bounce to send back Rohit Sharma and Shreyas Iyer, but not before they had put on useful stands of 38 and 63 with KL Rahul.
There were plenty of freebies from Sri Lanka's bowlers, and Rahul was particularly ruthless on anything short or on his pads, a pulled six off Mathews and a pick-up flick to long leg off Pradeep the standout shots among his eight boundaries. When he was bowled by a Thisara slower ball for 61, India were 112 for 3 in the 15th over.
India were in a good position, but they weren't yet running away with the game. It was here that Sri Lanka's bowling really lost control. Dhoni and Pandey added to the pressure on them by manufacturing boundaries out of nowhere. In the 18th over, Dhoni guessed correctly that Thisara would send down a slower offcutter, and he walked across his stumps, waited, and paddled him away to the right of short fine leg. Then, bowling what was meant to be the last ball of the 19th, Pradeep sent down a chest-high full-toss outside off stump. Pandey ramped it away for six over fine third-man, and put away the resultant free-hit as well - another full-toss - slapping it to the cover boundary.
Sri Lanka lost Niroshan Dickwella in the second over of their chase, a clever slower ball from Jaydev Unadkat foiling his plans to hit him inside-out. But they still had something going for them when Upul Tharanga was at the crease - he launched Hardik Pandya for a big six over midwicket in the third over, and then, messing with India's calculations of where to place their two deep fielders, swept and shovelled Chahal for a four and a six off successive balls in the fifth over.
Chahal was under pressure, and Sri Lanka weren't badly placed at all at 39 for 1. But another attempted sweep from Tharanga resulted in a bottom-edge onto pad and then into Dhoni's gloves, and just like that Sri Lanka's momentum stalled.
Kusal Perera, playing his first international game - and only his second match - since going home injured from the Champions Trophy in June, struggled for rhythm. Angelo Mathews, new to the crease, soaked up a few dot balls and by the time he popped a return catch back to Chahal in the eighth over, the required rate had climbed past 10.
There was no release from Chahal or Kuldeep Yadav, no soft full-tosses or long-hops. Sri Lanka didn't hit a boundary between the fifth and 15th overs, and in that time they lost 7 for 37 in 60 balls.
Asela Gunaratne walked past one fired down the leg side, and Dhoni completed a fortunate stumping, fumbling the ball onto the stumps. Dasun Shanaka, having looked all at sea against Chahal's googly, holed out off Kuldeep. Chahal then spun his wrong'un past Thisara, and Dhoni completed a more convincing stumping. Kusal, having hacked and slashed ineffectually for 27 balls, finally fell in the 13th over when he miscued a big heave off Kuldeep. Sri Lanka were 70 for 7, and the end was near.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo