India rode on fine knocks by Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh to defeat Sri Lanka by five wickets in their Asia Cup Twenty20 cricket match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium and enter the finals.
Coming in after the early fall of opener Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli anchored the innings with an unbeaten half-century as India overhauled the 139-run target with four balls to spare.
The Delhi lad remained not out on 56, with seven well-timed boundaries studding his 85-ball knock. Yuvraj produced a power-packed innings, hitting 35 runs off 18 balls with three boundaries and an equal number of sixes.
India, who have won all the three matches they have played so far, thus assured themselves a spot in the final.
The men in blue are at the top of the five-team table with six points and even an unlikely defeat in the final group game against minniows United Arab Emirates will see them through to the summit clash.
Nuwan Kulasekara was the most successful among the Sri Lankan bowlers with figures of 2/21. The Indian run chase was off to a rocky start with openers Dhawan and Rohit Sharma departing early.
But Kohli and Suresh Raina came together to bring the innings back on track. While Kohli was the more aggressive of the two, Raina gave him good support from the other end.
The duo batted patiently, finding the gaps for the occasional boundary to add 54 runs between them.
Raina, who scored 25 runs off 26 balls with two hits to the ropes, was dismissed by Dasun Shanaka when he miscued an attempted big hit. The left-hander was surprised by the extra bounce and offered an easy high catch for Kulasekara at mid-off.
Yuvraj strode in and proceeded to plunder the Lankan bowling with some powerful hits. The veteran left-hander carried India within sniffing distance of the target before a bouncer from Perera carried the top edge to Kulasekara at fine leg.
Hardik Pandya followed Yuvraj back to the pavilion in the next over, but by then India were well on the way to victory. Fittingly, Kohli hit the winning runs with a boundary off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
Earlier, Sri Lanka produced a competitive total of 138/9 in their 20 overs.
For India, promising all-rounder Pandya (2/26), off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2/26) and young pacer Jasprit Bumrah (2/27) took two wickets each.
Veteran pacer Ashish Nehra (1/22), who bowled an excellent opening spell, also got a wicket.
Chamara Kapugedera (30) was the highest scorer among the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Asked to bat first on a greenish pitch, the Sri Lankan batsmen never really managed to settle down and lost wickets at regular intervals.
Sri Lanka suffered an early setback when opener Dinesh Chandimal was caught behind off Nehra’s bowling while attempting a big hit.
Bumrah piled on the pressure in the next over with a superb delivery which Shehan Jayasuriya edged to Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.
Dhoni’s decision to bring Pandya into the attack in place of Nehra brought immediate results as the all-rounder got rid of the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan with his very first ball.
Angelo Mathews seemed to be in good touch, hitting Pandya for a couple of boundaries. But the right-hander was undone by poor timimg when he got a thick inside edge onto the stumps.
Kapugedera and Milinda Siriwardana (22) tried to steady the innings with a 43-run partnership.
The duo handled the Indian bowling quite well, producing the occassional boundary as the Sri Lankans tried to come back into the game.
But the partnership came to an end when Siriwardana holed out Raina at long-on while trying to hit Ashwin out of the ground. The Sri Lankans plunged into further trouble when Dasun Shanaka was run out off the last ball of the same over.
Thisara Perera (17) and Kulasekara (13 not out) then came up with a few bit hits in the closing stages of the innings to take their team to a competitive total. (IANS)