‘Game-changer’ Suryakumar powers India to T20 series win over Sri Lanka


Suryakumar Yadav celebrates after scoring a century during the third Twenty20 cricket match between India and Sri Lanka in Rajkot on Saturday. AP

Suryakumar Yadav, the world’s leading Twenty20 batsman, said on Saturday he was thriving in his role as a “game-changer” after smashing a blazing century in India’s series-clinching 91-run win over Sri Lanka.

The hosts rode on Suryakumar’s unbeaten 112 off 51 deliveries to post 228-5 after electing to bat first in the series decider in Rajkot.

India then bowled out Sri Lanka for 137 in 16.4 overs for a 2-1 triumph to extend their unbeaten record in bi-lateral series to 12 on home turf which stretches back to February 2019.

Suryakumar, known as a 360-degree player for his ability to play all around the ground, stood out with his third T20 hundred — in 45 balls — as he stamped his class as the world’s number one batsman in the format.

“It’s really important to put pressure on yourself when you are preparing for a game. If you do that in practice, it gets a little easier while playing the game,” man of the match Suryakumar said.

Asked about his conversations with coach Rahul Dravid, a batting great in the classical mould, Suryakumar said, “He just lets me enjoy myself, whatever I am doing.

“Whatever situation I go in he tells me ‘just enjoy yourself, express yourself and try and be the game-changer on a given day’.”

Skipper Hardik Pandya praised Suryakumar, known as ‘SKY’, saying, “He has been surprising everyone and making everyone know that batting is very easy.

“If I am a bowler, I will be disheartened with the shots he plays. He has played blinders after blinders, which is now becoming a habit.”

The T20 sensation smashed seven fours and nine sixes including three off his trademark scoop shot over fine leg to entertain the raucous home crowd.

India lost two wickets inside six overs after electing to bat first but Suryakumar and Shubman Gill, who hit 46 off 36 deliveries, put on 111 runs to lay the foundations for the total.

Left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka struck in the opening over to send back the left-handed Ishan Kishan, caught at slip for one by Dhananjaya de Silva.

Rahul Tripathi, 31, who made his debut in the previous match, then hit back with Gill for company as he hit Maheesh Theekshana for three fours in the fifth over.

Tripathi smashed fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne for two successive sixes but got caught out in an attempt to get another boundary. He made 35 off 16 deliveries.

Suryakumar, who reached his fifty in 26 balls, then took charge with his all-round hitting including three sixes with his scoop shot over fine leg.

Gill joined in the charge as he and Suryakumar smashed 23 runs in the 14th over from Theekshana.

But after three fours and two sixes in his 36-ball knock, Gill was bowled by leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and two more wickets fell before Suryakumar kept up the charge.

In reply, Kusal Mendis started briskly but fell to Axar Patel’s left-arm spin for 23 in the fifth over.

The left-handed Axar was named man of the series for his three wickets and 117 runs in the three matches.

Wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals with Pandya, fellow quick Umran Malik and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal taking two each.

Left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh took three including the final wicket.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka, who helped the tourists bounce back from their opening loss in the previous match, hit 23 off 17 balls before departing.

Shanaka said he is “happy” with his performance and there were a “lot of positives” to be taken from the series.

India’s top stars, including regular captain Rohit Sharma and star batsman Virat Kohli, will return for the three one-day internationals between the two teams starting Tuesday.

Agence France-Presse


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