After falling to Sri Lanka by six wickets in their second Super 4 encounter on Tuesday, India nearly lost the Asia Cup. Rohit Sharma hit an imperious 72 off 41 balls as India staggered to 173/8. Before Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin combined to grab four wickets and pull India back into the game, Sri Lanka set their greatest opening partnership in T20Is. Arshdeep Singh bowled full after being forced to defend seven off six balls once again, but Bhanuka Rajapaksa and skipper Dasun Shanaka held their composure to secure the victory with one ball remaining.

Given that Sri Lanka was 89/0 at the halfway point, it seemed rather incredible that both teams were tied at 138/4 after 16.3 overs. Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis were cruising after scoring 57 in the Powerplay until Nissanka reverse-swept Yuzvendra Chahal to Sharma at the backward point. Charith Asalanka top-edged to Suryakumar Yadav at deep backward square three balls later, giving India a chance. India quickly regained control of the match after taking a further two wickets—Danushka Gunathilaka holing out to long-off and Mendis getting caught by Chahal. But once the spinners were dismissed, Sri Lanka gradually regained the upper hand by playing tactical cricket.

When India was batting, they were once again outsmarted tactically. The circumstances were better used by Sri Lanka, who bowled with the new ball wider and faster while gradually reducing the velocity of the ball to slow it down. Additionally, during the whole innings, the lines remained straight and unfussy, which made it tough for India to find breadth. They were certainly caught off guard by Sri Lanka’s opening gambit of speed and spin from each end.

KL After skipping down the field to hit the off-delivery spinner’s on the half volley for a boundary over extra cover, Rahul, who is often more adept against speed, was bowled by Maheesh Theeksana’s arm ball. Rahul thought he could replicate the shot, but this time he was hit in the boot. Virat Kohli, who was determined to get the game going immediately, batted out three dots and a wide before uncharacteristically stumbling over the line in response to a full, rapid ball from Dilshan Madushanka that curved back into him and flattened his off and middle stumps.