A day after India hammered Pakistan in an ODI that spanned two days, it was dismissed for only 213 at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. And yet won with some ease.
Though records tumbled in the India-Pakistan match — joint-highest score against this opposition and biggest win in terms of runs, the story was different against Sri Lanka.
For starters, it was a game of two halves against Sri Lanka. When India batted, the ball stopped and came on to the bat erratically. Some batters were rushed into their shots while others finished their swing by the time contact was made, resulting in soft dismissals.
Though it was not an ideal surface for white-ball cricket, the Indian bowlers showed that they could get the job done in a range of conditions.
Jasprit Bumrah was unusually pumped up in conditions that did not suit him, but he bowled with purpose and skill to defeat the batters first up. Mohammed Siraj kept his end up as India ensured Sri Lanka was three down before the spinners came on.
Though Axar Patel had an off day, not finding rhythm or the right speed through the air, he was not profligate. Ravindra Jadeja, playing the role the team needed of him, gave Rohit Sharma the control the captain needed. The wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav, who could take the ball away from the batters, sowed doubts in the minds of batters.
For fans, though the 228-run win against Pakistan will be paramount, the hard-fought 41-run win over Sri Lanka was more instructive. It revealed and reaffirmed the team’s template for the World Cup, using bowlers who can bat at No. 8 in the place of a specialist.
Axar did not just contribute vital runs with his 26, but also shepherded the tail to help India to a score it could defend. On another day, on a flatter pitch, Shardul Thakur would have been preferred for his clean hitting.
From here on, this Indian team wears a settled look. Having already made it to the final, it would be a good opportunity to rest some key players against Bangladesh in the last Super Four match.
Overall, the team is in a good space, and all that remains is for Shreyas Iyer to recover from his back spasms to shore up the middle order. He is one of the better players of spin and remains central to India’s World Cup plans.