India’s hopes of defending their Asia Cup
title are left hanging by a thread after the Men in Blue suffered another
last-over defeat against Sri Lanka in the Super 4 stage. Rohit Sharma took
India to a total of 172 for eight with a magnificent half-century, but Sri
Lanka chased down the target with one ball to spare to all but seal their spot
in Sunday’s final.
17 of the last 19 games have been won by
the team batting second in Dubai, and India got off to another poor start after
being put into bat by Dasun Shanaka. KL Rahul fell for six in the second over
after being hit on the boot by Maheesh Theekshana, while left-arm pacer Dilshan
Madushanka burst through the defences of Virat Kohli, who played an
uncharacteristic wild slog across the line to depart without troubling the
India recovered after that early double
blow through Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav. The Mumbai pair added a 97-run
stand with the opener doing most of the heavy lifting. The skipper took the Men
in Blue to 44 for two at the end of the powerplay with a four and six against
Asita Fernando. Sharma hit the pacer for another couple of boundaries to reach
a 32-ball half-century and kicked on through the middle overs, dismantling
Wanindu Hasaranga for two sixes and a four in the 12th over.
Sharma departed two balls later when he
dragged a slower ball to deep point for 72, and the Indian innings fell apart
following the skipper’s dismissal. Suryakumar Yadav managed only two boundaries
in his scratchy 29-ball 34, while neither Hardik Pandya nor Rishabh Pant could
find the acceleration needed at the death, with both batters departing on 17.
An excellent penultimate over from Dilshan Madushanka left India reeling at 161
for seven, and the Men in Blue only managed to limp towards a respectable score
of 173 thanks to an Ashwin six in the final over.
In response, the Sri Lankan openers added
57 runs in the powerplay to set up the run chase. Arshdeep Singh’s slower balls
departed for 18 runs in the fifth over, while both openers cleared the ropes
against Chahal and Ashwin to put the Islanders on the right track. Sri Lanka
were cruising at 97-0 in 11 overs, but India fought back with four quick
wickets from the spinners. Chahal pocketed both openers after their
half-centuries along with Asalanka for a duck, while the left-hander Pathum
Nissanka picked out long-off against Ashwin.
The flurry of wickets left Sri Lanka
needing 64 runs off 35 balls, but Bhanuka Rajapaksa brought down the run rate
with a pair of sixes against Ashwin and Chahal, while Dasun Shanaka tore into
the Indian pacers. The skipper hit four fours and a six between overs 17 to 19
to leave just seven runs needed off the final six deliveries.
Arshdeep Singh bowled an incredible final
over, but Sri Lanka edged over the line with two byes to seal a momentous
six-wicket win, leaving India on the brink of elimination.