A depleted Indian team, playing with only five batsmen, could not defend a modest target of 133 despite a valiant effort from its players as Sri Lanka kept the three-match series alive with a four-wicket victory in the second T20 International in Colombo on Wednesday.
With nine players unavailable after Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19, India had no option but to play with six specialist bowlers, including one pacer Navdeep Saini, who wasn't even given a single over.
Dhananjaya de Silva (40 not out) anchored a tricky Lankan chase after India were restricted to 132/6 in their 20 overs.
Vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/21 in 4 overs) was economical till Chamika Karunartne launched his full-toss for a six. The 12 runs from the 19th over brought the equation down to eight required off the final, which debutant Chetan Sakariya was unable to defend.
Kuldeep Yadav, brought back into the team, finished with good figures of 2/30 but he must feel let down by his team-mates as a couple of catches were put down. Leg-spinners Varun Chakravarthy (1/18 in 4 overs) and Rahul Chahar (1/27) kept things tight but de Silva and Chamika Karunaratne kept their cool in the closing stages, to take the hosts to victory with two balls to spare.
Invited to bat, a depleted India scored 132/5 in their 20 overs on a sluggish pitch. The total was a tad short as the hosts, propped by de Silva's unbeaten 40 and Minod Bhanuka's 36 overhauled the target with two balls to spare.
The degree of difficulty in batting could be gauged from the fact that only seven boundaries and a six were hit in 20 overs, as 42 dot balls were consumed by the India’s batsmen.
Skipper Shikhar Dhawan (40 off 42 balls), aware of a thin-on-experience batting line-up, had a cautious approach on a track where the ball simply refused to come onto the bat, and improvisation was the order of the day.
With heavy rain slowing the outfield, run-making became an ordeal, but young Padikkal (29 off 23 balls) was elegant as usual before a moment's indiscretion did him in.
The other much-anticipated debut of Ruturaj Gaikwad (21 off 18 balls) also ended in a whimper when a Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka's short ball climbed on him and he got himself in a tangle while playing a pull-shot that went straight-up for Minod Bhanuka.
Knowing that only five batsmen were playing on the day, Dhawan had to cut down on risky shots even though a cover drive, an on-drive and a slog-pull behind square were there among his five fours before off-spinner Dananjaya de Silva (2/13) got him to play the slog-sweep.
But the man who impressed the most was Padikkal, who slog-swept Dhanajaya de Silva for a six and ran well between the wickets during his 32-run stand with skipper Dhawan and brief one with Sanju Samson.
He also reverse swept Wanindu Hasaranga (1/30) for a boundary before a non-existent slog-sweep brought about his downfall.
Some of his strokes did not reach the boundary but the Bengaluru boy showed that he has the temperament required for the highest level.
Samson (7 off 13 balls) once again blew away an opportunity to prove his worth. He was beaten in flight by Akila Dananjaya (2/29) as he came down the track and was bowled.
India were forced to field four debutants in the second T20 International after Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, resulting in the postponement of the second T20I. It also led to isolation of eight Indian players including Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, and Krishna Gowtham after they were identified as close contacts, resulting in them missing the remaining two T20Is.
India have made as many as seven changes with Kuldeep Yadav, Rahul Chahar and Navdeep Saini included, while Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal, Nitish Rana and Chetan Sakariya made their India debuts.