It was just seven balls into the Aussie Cricket League’s debut clash, and the Sri Lankan camp painted a gloomy contrast to the vibrant atmosphere.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, a vicious start from firebrand Indian quick Satnam Grewal – who had been on a hattrick after sending Yashan Samarasinghe’s middle stump cartwheeling spectacularly – reduced Sri Lanka XI to 2-1.
Anurag Dhaliwal had Aaron Fernando caught at mid-wicket with the first ball of the second over, and the Sri Lankans were left shell-shocked at 3-1.
Skipper Ruwantha Kellepotha somewhat steadied the ship, counterpunching his way to 10 before falling victim to a catch at deep mid-wicket, leaving his side at 4-16.
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Sri Lanka XI coach Bathiya Perera conceded those first six overs proved to be the difference.
“How we handled our powerplay was poor, and that was a bit of a blow,” Perera said.
“(India XI) actually handled their powerplay well – both batting and bowling – and that was the difference really… I think it was their seamers who set the game up for them.
“I think we did ok after losing a couple of wickets early on, but… we were never on top, we were always two steps behind, which isn’t good enough in T20 cricket.”
The Sri Lankan side would limp to 7-103 from their 20 overs, punctuated by a defiant 47 from Nilochana Perera.
Coach Perera was pleased with his namesake Nilochana, describing his batting as “outstanding.”
“On a difficult wicket he got 47 and made it look easy, but then he got out to a brilliant catch on the boundary line at deep mid-wicket,” Perera said.
“Sanitha De Mel at the end got 20-odd, batted really well. Those two were our standouts from a batting point of view.”
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Sri Lanka’s total of 103 ultimately proved too little, with the Indian side chasing it down in the 18th over with five wickets to spare.
Sri Lanka XI captain Ruwantha Kellepotha was left frustrated by his side’s batting performance, musing “if we had 20 extra runs, maybe a different result,” in his post-match interview.
That being said, Kellepotha (1-10 off four overs) and fellow leg-spinning maestro Yohan Maddage (3-15 off four) bowled superbly through the middle overs, forcing the game into the latter stages.
India had several key contributors with bat in hand.
Man of the hour Satnam Grewal looked to follow on from his destructive bowling display, crunching a 15-ball 16 at the top of the order before being castled by Vinu Mohotty’s off-spin.
Vishesh Bansal (36 off 29 balls) kept the runs flowing through the middle overs, eventually holing out in the 14th over.
While Tej Gandhi (25* off 16) steered the run-chase home and earnt player of the match honours in the process, the highlight of his innings a picturesque inside-out six over cover.
It comes as no surprise India XI captain Ashish Matthews was pleased with the result.
“We knew (the wicket) would be tacky and it would not be easy to chase a target,” Matthews said.
“Good to have a win as a start, and I’m definitely looking forward to the two next matches.”