Powerplay woes cost India - Dhawan
How each team fared in the first six overs of their innings was instrumental to the eventual result in the Nidahas Trophy opener. That was the summation of Shikhar Dhawan and Kusal Perera, the two highest scorers, who hit 90 off 49 and 68 off 37 respectively. Where India were 40 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay, Sri Lanka powered ahead to 75 for 2. There lay Sri Lanka's advantage, on what Dhawan believed was otherwise a slow-paced surface.
"It was in the first six overs that they took the game away from us," he said. "After the first six overs even they weren't hitting the ball that frequently - it wasn't like 10 an over against the spinners in the middle overs. That's because the wicket was a little slow."
It was largely thanks to a Kusal explosion in the third over that Sri Lanka outdid India so prodigiously during this period. Hitting five fours and a six off Shardul Thakur, he plundered 26 off one over (a no-ball was delivered as well), and had struck 39 off 17 by the end of the Powerplay. With Danushka Gunathilaka also contributing two sixes and a four during this stretch, Sri Lanka had whittled down the asking rate to a little over seven by the time the field restrictions ended. Sri Lanka's middle-order wobbled, but the top order had done enough.
"We had to attack in the first six overs. As the target was 175, we needed some momentum," Kusal said after the match. "When you get that kind of start, it is easier for the innings to progress smoothly, but you don't get that kind of start every game. The first six overs had a great impact on the match."
India may have been more ambitious during their Powerplay, but had been prevented from attacking by Sri Lanka's opening bowlers, who each took a wicket in their first over. Dushmantha Chameera had Rohit Sharma miscue a ball high into the air, to be caught brilliantly by Jeevan Mendis running back from mid-off. Suresh Raina, who was backing away, was bowled by Nuwan Pradeep soon after.
India were 9 for 2 after two overs, and though their innings gained momentum in the middle overs, they never quite managed to put the game beyond the opposition - something they have often done against Sri Lanka over the past six months.
"They took two wickets in the first two overs - that's the damage they did to us," Dhawan said. "Usually I'm the aggressor when the side aren't scoring runs at a quick pace - generally my strike rate is very high. If we didn't lose a wicket we would have been more aggressive. Today, we had to see that we wouldn't lose any more wickets. At the end of six overs we were maybe 10 runs short of what we usually achieve."