KL Rahul scored an unbeaten half-century in his 50th ODI to help India claim a four-wicket victory in the second ODI against Sri Lanka here at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.
India clinched the three-match ODI series with an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Sensible batting from KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya ensured the hosts recovered from the early setback to complete the chase. The wicketkeeper batsmen scored 64* runs while Hardik made 36 runs. Chamika Karunaratneand Lahiru Kumara picked up two wickets apiece to dent the Indian run-chase.
Chasing the target, India were off to a quick with openers Shubhman Gill and Rohit Sharma smashing five fours and a six inside the first four overs. The batting duo looked in sublime touch and fed on the over-pitched bowling by the Sri Lankan pace attack.
The Indian captain looked set for another Eden Garden special knock with the Kolkata ground serving as the right-hander's happy hunting ground. However, pacer Chamika Karunaratne struck to the fourth-stump line to produce Rohit's edge in the fifth over, giving the visitors some much-needed respite. The right-hander was dismissed for 17(21).
Lahiru Kumara was struck for consecutive boundaries by Gill but the bowler had the last laugh as he dismissed the batter on the third ball of the over to send the opener packing for a quick-fire 21(12).
The onus to steady the inning fell on last match's centurion Virat Kohli and batter Shreyas Iyer. However, the former Indian captain fell to a fiery in-swinging delivery as Lahiru knocked over Virat's stumps. The right-hander could only score 4(9) before getting dismissed. India were in dire need of a sturdy partnership at the end of 10 overs with the scoreboard reading 67/3.
Iyer did play a few eye-pleasing strokes to find boundaries at regular intervals but was dismissed to a straight full delivery, expecting a bumper with the Sri Lankans feeding him short-pitched deliveries. The right-hander made 28(33) and failed to convert his start leaving India in a spot of bother at 86/4.
Vice-captain Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul were left to do the rebuilding of the inning and the pair made sure that Sri Lanka did not run away with the game. The duo stitched a vital 75-run stand for the fifth wicket to keep India in the hunt.
While Hardik looked to play his shots, Rahul played second fiddle and held one end. The Gujarat Titans skipper was dismissed for 36(53) after playing a crucial inning. The right-hander was looking to play an aggressive cover drive and could only manage an outside edge.
Axar Patel who has been in a rich vein of form with the bat, came out all guns blazing to hit a six and a four off Karunaratne in the 37th over.
The all-rounder looked in a hurry to finish the chase but his inning was cut short by Dhananjaya de Silva in the 40th over. Axar played a lofted inside-out shot over covers but boundary rider Karunaratne covered good ground to pull off a brilliant catch, dismissing the left-hander for 21(21).
India's wicketkeeper-batsmen Rahul reached his fifty to present a strong case for himself at the number five spot. The right-hander along with left-hand chinaman Kuldeep Yadav ensured that India closed out the chase to gain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. The pair shared an unbeaten 28-run partnership for the seventh wicket to seal the victory for the hosts by six wickets.
Kuldeep contributed with the bat as well after taking three wickets earlier in the day and remained unbeaten on 10 runs. Rahul made his 50th ODI appearance memorable with a match-winning knock of 64* runs.
Fantastic bowling spells from spinner Kuldeep Yadav and pacer Mohammed Siraj combined to bundle out Sri Lanka for just 215 runs with debutant Nuwanidu Fernando scoring a fighting half-century.
Siraj and Kuldeep picked up three wickets each to derail the Sri Lankan innings. The Lankans lost five wickets for 24 runs in the middle overs after Kuldeep produced a three-for to spark a collapse.
Brief Scores: India 219/6 (KL Rahul 64*, Hardik Pandya 36; Chamika Karunaratne 2-51) vs Sri Lanka 215/10 (Nuwanidu Fernando 50, Kusal Mendis 34; Kuldeep Yadav 3-51)
(With Inputs from ANI)