Hyderabad: It was an all-round effort from the Men in Blue as they beat Sri Lanka by 78 runs in the third T20 in Pune on Friday and won the three-match series 2-0 to start the New Year on a positive note.
Skipper Virat Kohli wasn't third-time lucky as Lasith Malinga won the toss and elected to bowl after being down 0-1 in the series. India replaced Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav and Shivam Dubey with Sanju Samson, Yuzvendra Chahal and Manish Pandey.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul gave India a flying start and put up 97 runs for the first wicket in 10.5 overs before Dhawan got out for a well-made 52. It was long overdue for Gabbar as he scored a fifty after 15 innings. Debutant Sanju Samson walked in after a long wait and hit a six off his first ball.
However, Samson couldn't capitalise on his start and he lost his wicket the very next ball, turning a dream debut into disappointment. A flurry of wickets went down and the score was 122/4 in no time.
Kohli walked in at an unusual position of No. 6 and steadied the ship with Manish Pandey on the other end. The duo held the innings together until Kohli was surprisingly run out on 26. Fireworks from Shardul Thakur at the end took the score to 201/6 in 20 overs.
Sri Lanka had the mountain target of 202 and Jasprit Bumrah was handed the ball. He bowled as expected and picked the wicket of Gunathilaka, who was caught by Sundar, on the last ball of the first over.
Wickets fell like dominoes for the Lankans within the powerplay itself. Navdeep Saini once again bowled a toe-crushing yorker to send Kusal Perera for 7. Sri Lanka were down to 26/4 within the 6th over.
Veteran Angelo Mathews tried steadying the ship as he scored 31(20) alongside Dhananjaya de Silva who went on to score a well-built 57, before getting out to Saini.
The Lankan tail couldn't put up a fight as Saini picked the last wicket and took India home with a comfortable victory of 78 runs and the series by 2-0.
Shardul Thakur was adjudged the Man of the Match for his all-round performance of 22(8)* with the bat and 2-19 with the ball. Saini got the Man of the Series award for being consistent with the ball – he picked 5 wickets in 2 matches.
India will now take on Australia in a three-match ODI series beginning January 14 at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.