Visakhapatnam, Feb 14: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin weaved his magic with a career-best four-wicket haul as India trounced Sri Lanka by 9 wickets in the deciding third and final Twenty20 International to clinch the three-match series 2-1, here today.
Ashwin scalped two wickets in the very first over and then returned with dream figures of 4-1-8-4 as the hosts bundled out Sri Lanka 82, their lowest ever score in T20 cricket. Ashwin won both Man-of-the-match and Man-of-the-series awards.
Before this, Sri Lanka's lowest total was 87 against Australia in 2010 at Bridgetown. Ashwin was simply unplayable for the Sri Lankans on a pitch, which offered help to the spinners and took four wickets in his magical three-over opening spell.
Besides Ashwin, Suresh Raina also shone with the ball by scalping two batsmen and giving away just six runs in his two overs.
The series win also helped India retain its numero uno position in the ICC T20 rankings. Such was the plight of the visitors that only two batsmen - Dasun Shanaka (19) and Thisara Perera (12) -managed to touch the double-digit mark at ACA-VDCA stadium.
The total was too small for India, who overhauled the target in 13.5 overs after losing Rohit Sharma (13) early in the innings. The Indians were in no hurry as they waited for bad balls to hit boundaries and relied on singles and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan (46 off 46) and Ajinkya Rahane (22 off 24) took the side to the finishing line with an unbeaten 55run partnership for the second wicket. There were not many boundaries but Dhawan finished off the match with a six and four off debutant Asela Gunaratne.
It was second successive series win for India after whitewashing Australia 3-0 in their own backyard. India's next assignment is Asia Cup in Bangladesh where they play the hosts on February 24 in the tournament-opener in Mirpur.
Earlier opting to field, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni handed out the new ball to Ashwin and he responded with two wickets in the first over of the match.
Ashwin took four wickets in a magical three-over opening spell to break the back of the Sri Lankan batting order. The off-spinner was simply unplayable for the Lankans.
Suresh Raina also shone on a helpful pitch by scalping two batsmen and giving away just six runs in his two overs.
Ashwin had Niroshan Dickwella (1) stumped when the batsman charged down the track but was was completely beaten and the Indian captain had an easy stumping to do.
In the last ball of the over, Ashwin trapped Tillakaratne Dilshan (1) and when he retuned for his second over, he had Dinesh Chandimal caught by Hardik Pandya as the rival skipper tried to cut loose but miscued a shot. Sri Lankan innings was in complete shambles losing the first three wickets with only 12 runs on the board.
In his third over, Ashwin got rid of debutant Asela Gunaratne and soon the Lankans were gasping at 21 for five with left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra taking the fifth wicket Such was the dominance of the Indian bowlers that only six shots to the fence were played in seven overs.
It was only in the eighth over that Sri Lanka found two sixes through Shanaka (19), who whacked Yuvraj Singh twice. However, Shanaka lost his partner Prasanna in the same over through a run out, which was result of excellent field work by Ravindra Jadeja and Sri Lanka were tottering at 48 for six.
At half-way mark, the visitors had managed to put on board only 54 runs. The wicket was assisting spinners and Dhoni had no hesitation in giving the ball to Jadeja and Raina.
Soon Jadeja sent back Shanaka (19) by going through his defence. Ashwin returned for his final over but could not add any wicket to his tally but Raina scalped Sachitra Senanayke (8) and Thisara Perera (12) in a space of three balls. Bumrah folded the innings by castling Dilhara Fernando (1) in the last ball of the 18th over.