KL Rahul back in the groove: Things learnt from India's T20I win over Sri Lanka

Ashish Peter 20/12/2017
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Rahul smashed a fluent fifty in India's win.

After capturing the ODI series in style, India took on Sri Lanka in the first of the three T20Is at Cuttack.

With heavy dew forecast at night, Sri Lanka skipper Thisara Perera won the toss and elected to field first. The hosts chose Jaydev Unadkat to share the fast-bowling duties with Jasprit Bumrah while KL Rahul returned into the line-up after missing out in the ODI series.

Ultimately, India took a 1-0 lead in the series courtesy of a 93-run win as Sri Lanka were bundled out for 87 runs in reply to India’s total of 180.

Here, we look at the things learnt from India’s win in the first T20I.

KL RAHUL BACK IN THE GROOVE

Rahul was returning to the side after missing out on selection in the ODI series. The opening batsman has been off the boil in the limited-overs formats of late leading to his subsequent dropping.

Shikhar Dhawan’s absence in the T20I afforded Rahul another chance to reaffirm his credentials and he took it with aplomb on Wednesday.

The opener looked in fine nick as he dispatched the ball balls to the boundaries while constantly rotating the strike on others. The 25-year-old brought up his second T20I fifty in a well made 48-ball 61.

Rahul looked back to his best in Wednesday's outing.

Rahul looked back to his best in Wednesday’s outing.

DHONI’S STILL GOT IT

The veteran’s future in the T20I setup has been a hot topic of debate in recent times with many advocating a younger alternative to take the wicket-keeper batsman’s place in the side.

The argument has been that Dhoni’s powerful explosive batting has been on the wane with the former skipper unable to accelerate as well as the team would like.

The 36-year-old turned the clock back in his quick-fire cameo of an unbeaten 39 from 22 balls. The Ranchi man smashed four boundaries and a massive six as he combined with Manish Pandey to power India to a strong finish in the final overs.

Dhoni brought out his power-game in the death overs.

Dhoni brought out his power-game in the death overs.

CHAHAL WICKET-TAKING SECOND TO NONE

The leg-spinner has emerged as a preferred option for India in the limited-overs format with his wrist-spin combo with Kuldeep Yadav displacing Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from the team.

Yuzvendra Chahal has been in great wicket-taking form in recent times with the white ball against New Zealand and then subsequently against the islanders in the ODIs where he picked up six wickets in the final two games.

He was on song once again on Wednesday as he tore through Sri Lanka’s middle-order with a four-wicket haul that led India’s charge to a huge win.

Chahal broke Sri Lanka’s spine with the important wickets of Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera and Asela Gunaratne.

Chahal has emerged as a fine wicket-taking option for India.

Chahal has emerged as a fine wicket-taking option for India.

SRI LANKA STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO

The tourists were expected to give the hosts a much bigger headache in the shortest format but the same problems continue to plague the side.

The bowlers had a plan to bowl full and wide to the Indian batsmen in the death overs but the execution left a lot to be desired as they erred slightly in line and length. Dhoni and Pandey punished these errors to lead India to a daunting total.

The batting remains a huge concern for Perera’s men with the side once again collapsing in a heap. Only one batsman in Tharanga crossed the 20-run mark highlighting the woes the visitors have faced in the batting department all tour.

Thisara Perera and his men have a long way to go.

Thisara Perera and his men have a long way to go.

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Rohit Sharma on verge of milestone ahead of first India-Sri Lanka T20I

Ashish Peter 20/12/2017
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Rohit Sharma is 15 runs short of 1500 T20I runs for India.

After clinching the ODI series 2-1, hosts India will once again lock horns with Sri Lanka in the first T20I at Cuttack on Wednesday.

Rohit Sharma will once again lead the home side in the absence of Virat Kohli with a host of new faces introduced into the squad for the three-match series.

We look at the key talking points ahead of the game.

KL RAHUL TO GET HIS CHANCE

The opener has watched himself play second fiddle to Shikhar Dhawan in the Test format and was not picked in the squad for the ODI series.

He returns to the side for this format and will pair-up with Sharma in his preferred opening position. The right-hander has been out of form in twenty over cricket and will be looking for some eye-catching knocks to reaffirm his spot in the Indian set-up.

Rahul will be keen to reaffirm his limited-overs credentials.

Rahul will be keen to reaffirm his limited-overs credentials.

ROHIT SHARMA ON VERGE OF MILESTONE

The stand-in skipper is 15 runs short of becoming the second Indian batsman to score over 1,500 runs in T20Is. Virat Kohli is the only Indian batsman to have achieved the feat and Sharma will be looking to join that exclusive club.

The opener is fresh from his third ODI double-ton in the recently concluded 50-over series and could cap off a fine 2017 with another feather in his cap.

Sharma looks set to join an elite club for India.

Sharma looks set to join an elite club for India.

CHANCE FOR INDIA’S FRESH CROP

Deepak Hooda and Basil Thampi have been given their maiden call-ups for India while Washington Sundar and Mohammed Siraj have only played one international match before this series. Add in Jaydev Unadkat and in the mix and the hosts have a host of fresh faces in the squad.

Hooda might find it difficult to find a spot in the middle-order at the moment while Siraj, Thampi and Unadkat will be fighting for the role of the second pacer alongside Jasprit Bumrah.

It will be interesting to note how many of the new faces see some action but it will not be surprising for all of them to feature at some point in the series as the hosts look to test their bench strength.

Siraj and Unadkat will feature at some point in the series.

Siraj and Unadkat will feature at some point in the series.

SRI LANKA’S BEST CHANCE

The islanders, for all their woes, have offered a scare both in the Tests and ODI series. While they were blown away in the deciding one-dayer, the tourists will feel confident of causing an upset with the host of changes made in India’s squad.

With Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Dhawan missing for India among others, Thisara Perera’s men will know that the format might represent their best chance of trumping the hosts.

Sri Lanka have lost their last four encounters with India in T20s and will be hoping to change that trend in Cuttack. Their new coach Chandika Hathurusingha is expected to take over the reins mid-way through the series and that might bring about a fresh approach.

The visitors have their best chance of the tour so far.

The visitors have their best chance of the tour so far.

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Duckett omitted from England Lions tour to West Indies

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Ben Duckett has been omitted from the England Lions squad for the upcoming tour of the West Indies because of his behaviour in Australia.

The Northamptonshire batsman received a final written warning over his conduct and was fined after pouring a drink over Test star James Anderson in a Perth bar while England’s senior Ashes and Lions players socialised together earlier this month.

The 23-year-old will now miss the four-day and limited-overs series against West Indies A in February and March, with another of England’s recently discarded openers, Keaton Jennings, captaining the squad.

An ECB spokesman said: “Ben Duckett has not been selected as a result of the off-field incident which led to his suspension and fine in Australia.”

Meanwhile, the tour gives a chance for Lancashire opener Haseeb Hameed and Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones to make their return from injury.

Hameed’s hopes of returning to the top of England’s order for the current Ashes tour were ended by a hand injury, while Roland-Jones was unable to travel to Australia after suffering a stress fracture to his back.

As-yet unused members of the Ashes party Mason Crane and Ben Foakes are included for the four-day series, alongside the leading wicket-taker in last season’s Specsavers County Championship, Jamie Porter, who pulled out of the Lions’ trip to Australia with a back problem.

National selector James Whitaker said: “We have selected a total of 22 players for these two series in the West Indies, to ensure we gain the most value in terms of assessing players in both first-class and one-day cricket.

“Haseeb Hameed, Jamie Porter and Toby Roland-Jones are all available again after injuries – Jamie and Toby after working exceptionally hard on the ECB’s Pace Programme over the last couple of months.

“Sam Curran missed out on the Lions training camp in Australia but he has also been training hard, under the supervision of Surrey’s strength and conditioning coaches, before going out to play T20 cricket in New Zealand.

“We have included two members of the Ashes tour squad, Ben Foakes and Mason Crane, for the four-day matches, with the possibility of either or both of them leaving the Lions tour early if they are selected in the England squad for the two Tests in New Zealand in March and April.”

Lions squads:

Both squads: Keaton Jennings (Lancashire), Joe Clarke (Worcestershire), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jamie Porter (Essex), Paul Coughlin (Nottinghamshire), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Alex Davies (Lancashire).

Four-day squad: Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Josh Tongue (Worcestershire).
One-day squad: Sam Northeast (Kent), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Dominic Bess (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), George Garton (Sussex), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire).

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