Bowler Irfan Pathan took five wickets as India warmed up for the World Twenty20 with a comfortable 26-run victory over hosts Sri Lanka in their first practice match this past weekend.
The Indian batsmen scored 146 runs for 5, and then Pathan took over the show with an impressive 5 wickets for 25 to bowl the Islanders for 120 in 19.3 overs at the P Sara Oval. Pathan plowed through the Sri Lankan top order before coming back to dismiss the lower middle order in the end. Pathan was then followed by Lakshmipathy Balaji, who claimed 3 wickets for 28.
Set a victory target of 147, Sri Lanka received an early jolt as Pathan castled opener Dilshan Munaweera on the last ball of the first over. He dismissed Tillakaratne Dilshan with the last ball of his second over to leave the hosts reeling at 15 for two from the first three overs. Kumar Sangakkara (32) combined with Angelo Mathews (16) to resurrect the Lankan innings but with Balaji getting better of Mathews, the target seemed to be a distant one for the hosts.
Pathan then came back to haunt the Sri Lankan batsmen as he dismissed Thisara Perara and skipper Mahela Jayawardene of successive deliveries before cleaning off Jeevan Mendis on the last ball of his spell to close the doors on the hosts. Balaji completed the formalities as India walked away with an easy victory.
Earlier, electing to bat, India were in a precarious situation at four for 51 before Dhoni and Rohit Sharma (37) stitched a 78-run partnership for the fifth wicket to lend some respectability to the Indian total. The visitors did not have an auspicious beginning as Gautam Gambhir was forced to leave the field as early as in the first over after being hit on the right wrist by a Lasith Malinga delivery.
â€œIâ€™m really happy with my seam position, and Iâ€™ve done a lot of work on that. Iâ€™m really happy with the way things are going and the zip that Iâ€™m getting off the wicket,â€ Irfan told the press after the warmup with Sri Lanka. â€œA lot of people talk about my pace, but Iâ€™m generally never bothered. Iâ€™m not an out-and-out quick bowler. Everyone has their own gifts and I have my strengths and weaknesses as well.â€
â€œThis is what Iâ€™ve learnt throughout the year. I love playing, but sometimes you just put too much pressure on yourself by thinking about performance. Eventually you have to come down to the level where you love the game and you just play. Iâ€™ve tried to learn a few tricks in terms of thinking out the batsmen. The more experience I have, the better Iâ€™m getting in terms of that. I think that long term, thatâ€™s what I want to keep working on. I will do whatever the team needs.â€
India, however, lost their next warmup match to India by five wickets two days later. The T20 World Cup has begun in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and India opens their play later this week against Afghanistan.