Rodrigues, Sharma and bowlers help India clinch series opener

Rodrigues (R) and Sharma (L) © Getty Images

Jemimah Rodrigues’ patient innings and late attacking batting from Deepti Sharma helped India register a win in the first T20I of the three-match series on Thursday (June 23) at the Dambulla International Stadium in Dambulla. India bowling unit, led by Radha Yadav, successfully defended the total as Kavisha Dilhari’s unbeaten 47 was not enough to take hosts over the line.

Facing Sri Lanka for the first time in the shortest format since the T20 World Cup in 2020, India’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur won the toss and opted to bat first. Rodrigues made her much-awaited comeback in the playing XI for India, while the 16-year-old Vishmi Gunaratne marked her return for Sri Lanka after missing out in the series against Pakistan. 

After a nervy opening over, Shafali Verma hammered Sugandika Kumari for a four through extra-cover to get rid of the early blues. Even after a couple of hits and missies, Verma found a way to hit Udeshika Prabodhani for another boundary early. Oshadi Ranasinghe provided Sri Lanka with a much-needed breakthrough when she dismissed Smriti Mandhana and S Meghana with back-to-back deliveries in her first over of the series. 

From 19 for 2 at the end of the fourth over, India needed some help from their captain, who walked in to bat at four, ahead of Rodrigues. Four balls in her innings, Kaur took out one of her strong shots and swept Kumari for a boundary. Kaur received a lifeline when she was batting on nine as Ama Kanchana dropped a sitter at square-leg. Kaur and Verma added 39 runs for the third wicket before Chamari Athapathuthu sent Verma back. 

India lost Kaur and wicket-keeper Richa Ghosh in the middle overs, but Rodrigues stood tall amongst the ruins. Pooja Vastrakar walked in at seven, ahead of Sharma, and played the second fiddle to Rodrigues as the pair took India past 100. Rodrigues rotated the strike well and punished the bad deliveries. She and Sharma added 32 runs in the final three overs to give India some momentum towards the end of the innings. Sharma scored 17 runs off just eight balls, including three consecutive boundaries in the final over of the innings as India scored 138 for six. 

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In reply, the hosts were rocked early as Sharma trapped Gunaratne in front in her first over of the match and delivered a maiden over in the power play. The responsibility of keeping Sri Lanka in the chase was on the shoulders of the leadership duo of Athapathuthu and Harshitha Madavi. The pair took Sri Lanka through the power play without losing a wicket and added 24 runs.

That fight-back didn’t last for long as Rajeshwari Gayakwad took an easy catch to give Yadav her first wicket of the day in Athapathuthu. Madavi perished two balls later with Sharma taking a diving blinder at the deep square-leg. At the end of the seventh over, Sri Lanka were 28 for three and India had complete control over the proceedings. India tightened their control further as Vastrakar bowled the maiden over after the twin blows. 

Kavisha Dilhari walked in at four when Sri Lanka’s required run rate was close to 8.5 runs per over. She took her time to settle down but once she found her momentum she played her shots to keep Sri Lanka in the contest. She drove Kaur to collect a boundary in the Indian captain’s second over and added another boundary via a perfectly timed cut shot in the same over. 

Dilhari continued to make her mark with the bat even when Sri Lanka lost Kanchana for 11, giving Verma her first international wicket. The 21-year-old registered her career-best score but missed her maiden half-century by three runs. Her efforts were too little too late for Sri Lanka as India restricted the hosts for 105 and registered a win by 34 runs to take a lead in the three-match T20I series.

Brief Scores: India 138/6 in 20 overs (Jemimah Rodrigues 36*, Shafali Verma 31; Inoka Ranaweera 3/30) beat Sri Lanka 105 for five in 20 overs (Kavisha Dilhari 47*; Radha Yadav 2/22) by 34 runs POTM: Jemimah Rodrigues