After two impressive outings, Sri Lanka were in with a chance to hand India their first defeat in 12 bilateral series at home. But they were up against a side that had the world’s most dangerous T20 batter in their ranks. Suryakumar Yadav came out wearing a seemingly No 1 jersey and proceeded to play from his notebook of the genius. He quickly extinguished Sri Lanka’s hopes to set up a 91-run defeat in the final T20 game, and a 2-1 series win for India.
Yadav painted the Rajkot sky with white streaks as he blazed away to his third T20I hundred in six months. Nottingham, Mount Maunganui and now Rajkot. It’s not common to score 112* off 51 balls (S/R 219.6 — 7×4, 9×6) but the Mumbai batter has been in such stunning form that he had finished his previous two centuries with even higher strike rates. His 100 came off 45 balls.
What Yadav’s been doing in T20 cricket is AB de Villiers-esque. He came in to bat in the sixth over and began finding the boundaries quickly, after Hardik Pandya had elected to bat. But Yadav’s first boundary – hit behind the wicket – came only in the 11th over. Once he hit one, he hit several more sixes in the fine-leg region. But he could bat with as much freedom, even when he was not thinking 360 degrees, by taking the conventional route.
At the 10-over mark, India were 92/2. In the last 10 they scored 146 runs, most of them through Yadav’s wristy strokes and angular blade. If his first ramp was daring as they come, the next one against Dilshan Madushanka’s left-arm pace in the 13th over was more frenetic – picked up from outside off-stump, head out of the way, up and over short fine-leg, a falling ramp if you like.
By then Madushanka had lost his rhythm and his length ball was deposited for a maximum over deep mid-wicket. In the next over of Maheesh Theekshana’s spin, Yadav used his feet to hit back-to-back sixes over extra cover. Yadav was thinking boundary-first every ball. So frequently was he able to find them that the Sri Lankan bowlers completely lost the plot.
Between overs 11-15, India got 72 runs. It’s an area Yadav has leaped ahead of the rest of the world. He’s comfortably the highest boundary-scorer in the middle-overs in the past 12 months.
Riding on Yadav’s blitz, India were equally destructive in the death overs. He reached his hundred in 45 balls with a single. While acknowledging the crowd and his dugout, Yadav was celebrating, grinning in disbelief perhaps at the heights he has been able to take his cricket to. “A few shots are predetermined. But these are my shots that I have been playing over the last year. So, nothing new,” he said during the innings break.
Only Rohit Sharma has scored more T20I hundreds (4) for India. Only Sharma amongst Indians has scored a quicker hundred. But even the white-ball giant that Sharma is would agree that the fear Yadav is able to instill in the bowler’s mind is something else.
SL batters surrender
With the cushion of a huge total (228/5) to defend, India’s bowlers had the liberty to attack, rare in this format on a batting -friendly surface. Returning after a forgettable outing in Pune, Arshdeep Singh (2.4-0-20-3) got his wicket-taking bouncer going, Umran Malik (3-0-31-2) kept up his routine of disturbing the timber at least once in an innings. Yuzvendra Chahal took two wickets to become India’s joint highest wicket-taker (90) with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Wilting under continuous scoreboard pressure and relentless Indian bowling, Sri Lanka capitulated for 137 runs in 16.4 overs.
To cap a perfect day for India, their batters had their first aggressive powerplay with the bat, after consecutive top-order collapses. Most of the credit for that goes to Rahul Tripathi (35–16b), playing his first T20 series. He showed intent from the time he came out to bat after Ishan Kishan fell cheaply to another meek dismissal.