KOLKATA: Wicketkeeper-batter KL Rahul stepped up when it mattered the most to pull India out of a tricky stage by slamming his 12th ODI fifty and carried them to a hard-fought four-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the second ODI at Eden Gardens, here on Thursday.
After Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj picked three wickets each to bundle out Sri Lanka for 215, the visitors' bowlers reduced India to 86/4. But Rahul kept his calm and batted sensibly under pressure to make an unbeaten 64 off 103 balls, and struck a crucial 75-run partnership with Hardik Pandya to take India over the line with 40 balls to spare, giving the hosts' an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
The paltry chase on the quick Eden outfield however was not a cakewalk for the Indian team, which lost its top-four batters for 86 runs in 14.2 overs.
Needing 130 from 214 balls, Rahul was the only designated batter left as he once again proved his utility in the middle overs with an unbeaten 64 off 103 balls that took India home with 40 balls to spare.
Having started off with a boundary, Rahul was quick to slow down as he ran hard for his singles en route to a 93-ball fifty.
The need of the hour was to play sensibly as Rahul and Hardik Pandya curbed their natural strokeplay in a decisive 75-run partnership that came off 119 balls.
It was also a different Pandya (36 off 53 balls) on display as he took time and gave Rahul perfect support. Pandya however departed against the run of play, leaving 55 runs required from 95 balls.
"I won't say it was a flat wicket, or it was doing a lot that it was impossible to bat. When Sri Lanka started, I thought it was a 280-300 wicket," Rahul said after the match.
India earlier endured some tense moments inside the powerplay when Rohit Sharma (17) and Shubman Gill (21) departed in four deliveries after an attacking start, while Virat Kohli (4) became the third casualty to be 62/3 in 9.3 overs.
Earlier, Kuldeep (3/51) answered the call grabbing three wickets in his first five overs, in a spell that triggered Sri Lankan collapse from being 102/1 just when debutant Nuwanidu Fernando (50 from 63 balls) and Kusal Mendis (34 from 34 balls) had started to build a good partnership in the middle overs.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 215 all out in 39.4 overs (Nuwanidu Fernando 50, Kusal Mendis 34, Mohammed Siraj 3/30, Kuldeep Yadav 3/51) lost to India 219/6 in 43.2 overs (KL Rahul 64 not out, Hardik Pandya 36; Chamika Karunaratne 2/51, Lahiru Kumara 2/64) by four wickets.
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