Deepak Hooda scored a match-winning 41-run knock that set up victory for India against Sri Lanka in the first Twenty20 International at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on Tuesday. The all-rounder combined with Axar Patel (31) to stitch an unbeaten 68-run sixth-wicket stand that steered India to 162-5 after being tested by the Sri Lankan bowlers earlier.

India vs Sri Lanka, 1st T20I: Deepak Hooda, Shivam Mavi star as hosts clinch thriller at Wankhede

India raced to 26 in the first two overs but the momentum dipped after losing their top and middle-order before Hooda, who hit four sixes in his 23-ball knock and was named player of the match, came in to bat.

In the post-match press conference, the all-rounder spoke about the crucial partnership and what India needed to do to recover after the early wickets. He said, “I was pretty clear in my mind that if we lose early wickets we have to build a partnership and when you are batting lower down the order at No 6, for a situation like that, being a cricketer, you have to be ready for that. A collapse can happen at any time.”

He added, “(But) I don’t think it was a collapse in the true sense as we were in a good position. Yes, we lost one or two extra wickets but I think that is the role of a No 6 and No 7 batter, be it the first or the second match. It’s a good win.

“You have to play according to the kind of wicket you get. You have to give a good total to the team and that was going through my mind. Being a No 6 batter, if you are playing at that position, you have to finish the game. So, that was the only thing going on in my mind.”

The 27-year-old also stated that because Wanindu Hasaranga had nearly completed his allotted number of overs and the wicket had also settled down, it allowed him to play freely after the spinners had successfully stifled the top and middle order batters.

“Initially, the situation did not permit hitting the ball hard, but it was his (Hasaranga’s) last over and then he bowled a loose ball as well. In a T20 game, you have to keep that intent of hitting. If you get the ball in the right area, you have to smash it. That was the perfect time to play my game with my partner Axar Patel and thankfully it got executed well,” he added.

After India recovered well with the bat, they were put in the driver’s seat, thanks to an inspired bowling performance by the Indian pacers led by debutant Shivam Mavi. While he returned with figures of 4/22, he was ably supported by fellow pacers Umran Malik and Harshal Patel as they picked up two wickets each.

Also read: End of wait for ICC trophy to new talent in tennis, badminton: A wish-list for Indian sport in 2023

However, Sri Lanka too hit back with the bat as skipper Dasun Shanaka and Hasaranga attempted to put the chase back on track in a 40-run partnership. Chamika Karunaratne took the resistance further with his unbeaten 23 off 16 but Axar Patel prevailed in the last over to hand India a thrilling 2-run win.

“The (team) meeting hasn’t taken place, but we were certainly 10-12 runs short. But at the end we got a good total,” Hooda said about the close margin of victory.

“Generally, there is dew on the Wankhede (pitch), but in the first innings there was not much dew, because of which the wicket was a bit slow. But the way the openers started and even though, we stumbled in between, we finished strongly and that’s what the game demands,” he further added.

Watch the entire press conference here.

Quotes courtesy: PTI with inputs from AFP