Pune: On the eve of the first T20I against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, India skipper Hardik Pandya promised to back the young players in his new-look squad. And he did that by handing debuts to Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi and the latter made a brilliant start to claim 4-22 and helped India to a two-run win in a last-ball thriller.
Mavi, 24, made great use of the slow-paced Wankhede pitch to claim his maiden four-fer, becoming only the third Indian to do so on debut. But Gill could score only seven runs and left India and Hardik Pandya to solve another opening conundrum.
Gill will expect Pandya to give him another opportunity in the second T20 match at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Thursday.
India on their part will expect a better performance from the top order as Gill, Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson failed to fire at the Wankhede, getting out while trying to force the pace against the Sri Lankan slow bowlers.
Their shot selection was not up to their usual standard and the team management will expect better efforts from them here as that will help India take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
While the Indian top-order failed, Deepak Hooda and Axar Patel came up with brilliant rear-guard efforts to help the team post something the bowlers can defend.
Led by Pandya, the Indian bowling unit executed its plans and managed to restrict Sri Lanka to 160 in 20 overs. Though in the end the match was too close to comfort, Pune presents the team with an opportunity to rectify the mistakes.
With Sri Lanka needing 13 off the final six balls of the match, India somehow managed to scamper home off the last delivery.
For Sri Lanka, top-order batting is an issue to tackle for them. Pathum Nissanka. Kusal Mendis, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dhananjaya de Silva and Charith Asalanka all failed to fire.
It was only due to a brilliant effort by skipper Dasun Shanaka, who, too, scored with 45, and Chamika Karunaratne, who landed some lusty blows including a couple of sixes, to propel Sri Lanka to the verge of victory. But in the end, they fell agonisingly close, two run outs in the final over resulting in the fine efforts of the lower-order going in vain.