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Shikhar Dhawan thanked Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for telling him to keep playing his natural game after the swashbuckling opener silenced his critics with his maiden T20 half century Friday.
There had been growing calls for Dhawan to be axed ahead of the World Twenty20 that begins next month in India after he failed to reach 50 in his previous 12 matches in the shortest format.
But after a disappointing tour of Australia, the 30-year-old finally found form when he smashed a 25-ball 51 in Ranchi to help India demolish Sri Lanka by 69 runs in the second of three T20s.
"I enjoyed batting over here and it's good that I got my first T20 fifty so I am very happy about that," Dhawan said after being named Man of the Match.
"I like to play my natural game and I got a lot of support from the captain and the support staff.
"They told me to play the way I want to play and backed my game so that gives you a lot of confidence and I enjoy that confidence."
After India were put into bat on a flat pitch, Dhawan's blistering innings enabled the hosts to post a challenging 196 for six, despite a late hat-trick from Thisara Perera.
After losing two early wickets, Sri Lanka never looked like chasing down their target and they only managed to post 127 for nine in their 20 overs.
The left-handed Dhawan unleashed an array of strokes to help the hosts return to winning ways after their shock loss in the first game of the three-match series.
Dhawan's opening stand with Rohit Sharma provided a solid 75-run base for the hosts against an inexperienced Sri Lankan attack.
Young medium-pacer Kasun Rajitha enjoyed a dream debut on Tuesday when he took three wickets but he was brought back down to earth in his second T20 international, conceding 45 runs in his wicketless four-over spell.
Dushmantha Chameera picked up Dhawan's wicket to put the brakes on India's run-rate before Hardik Pandya picked up the pace again by smashing a 12-ball 27.
Sri Lanka's hopes were lifted when Perera took a hat-trick at the tail-end of the Indian innings, effectively preventing the hosts from passing the 200-run mark.
Perera sent Pandya, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh back to the pavilion in the 18th over to give T20 cricket its fourth hat-trick and a first by a Sri Lankan.
Australia's Brett Lee and New Zealand's Jacob Oram and Tim Southee are the other three bowlers to pick a hat-trick in the shortest format.
But Perera's heroics failed to inspire the visiting batsmen, who faltered against a disciplined Indian attack.
Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin struck with the very first legal delivery of the Sri Lankan innings to get veteran opener Tilllkaratne Dilshan stumped.
Sharing the new ball with Ashwin, left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra also hit the deck hard to rattle the Lankan top-order with two more strikes and put the visitors on the back foot.
Skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara tried hard to get the visitors out of trouble with a 52-run fourth-wicket stand but Dhoni's persistence with spin paid off.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja snared Kapugedara and Chandimal with consecutive deliveries to foil any chance of an opposition chase while the asking rate steadily mounted.
Dhoni's sharp work behind the stumps was the reason behind Chandimal's departure as India tightened the noose.
The rest of the innings seemed like a mere formality with Ashwin and medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah bagging two wickets apiece.
Milinda Siriwardana made a valiant 28 not out only to be witness three ducks down the order as India relished a well-deserved win.
Sri Lankan skipper Chandamal backed his young charges to come back strong in the decider.
"We need to regroup. On this kind of track, we needed to mix our yorkers and slower deliveries well," he said.
"Hopefully our bowlers will learn quickly. We'll put our heart and soul into the next game."
The two teams head to Visakhapatnam for the decider on Sunday.
Sri Lanka all-rounder Thisara Perera claimed a hat-trick but could not deny India a series-levelling 69-run victory in the second Twenty20 in Ranchi on Friday.
The 26-year-old paceman dismissed Hardik Pandya, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh from successive deliveries before Sri Lanka, chasing 197 to clinch the series with a match to spare, were restricted to 127 for nine.
The run chase by the tourists got off to a terrible start with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (3-14) luring Tillakaratne Dilshan out of his crease with the first legitimate delivery and Mahendra Singh Dhoni removing the stumps in a flash.
Sri Lanka were then reeling at 16 for three before Dinesh Chandimal (31) and Chamara Kapugedera (32) staged a rally.
Milinda Siriwardana (28 not out) and Dasun Shanaka (27) also chipped in with useful knocks but they proved in vain in Dhoni's home town.
Smarting from their humbling in the series opener in Pune, India made an excellent start as openers Shikhar Dhawan (51) and Rohit Sharma (43) shared a quickfire stand of 75 in seven overs after Sri Lanka had opted to field.
Dhawan, who survived a strong lbw appeal early on, hit three successive fours in Kasun Rajitha's second over and took only 22 balls to race to his maiden international half-century in this format.
Dushmantha Chameera then had Dhawan caught behind before he took a brilliant diving catch off his own bowling after outfoxing Sharma with a slower delivery.
Boundaries temporarily dried up but, with five overs remaining, Pandya (27) hit spinner Sachithra Senanayake for back-to-back sixes and Raina (30) struck four boundaries in one Chameera over.
Perera then had Pandya caught at long on, Raina at backward square leg and the scoreless Yuvraj at long-on to become the fourth man to grab a Twenty20 international hat-trick, following Australian Brett Lee and New Zealanders Jacob Oram and Tim Southee.
Visakhapatnam stages the final match on Sunday.
India bounced back from a defeat in Pune to trounce Sri Lanka 69 runs in Ranchi and level the three-match series 1-1 on Friday.
Chasing a daunting target of 197, Sri Lanka never recovered after being redubed to 16-3 in the fourth over.
Skipper Chandimal (31) and Kapugedera (32) kept alive their hopes but it was tall order despite cameo from Shanaka (27) to finish on 127-9.
Ashwin claimed three for 14 while Nehra, Jadeja and Bumrah snared two wickets apiece.
Bumrah has bowled a superb full length delivery to Chameera which breaks the leg stump. SL 119-9, 19 overs.
Dushmantha Chameera b Bumrah 0 (3b)
It's all over bar the shouting as Senanayake also goes for a duck. SL 119-8, 17.3 overs.
Sachithra Senanayake lbw b Bumrah 0 (2b)
Hat-trick hero Thisara is gone for a duck. SL 117-7, 16.4 overs.
Thisara Perera c Rahane b Ashwin 0 (1b)
Shanaka's breezy knock comes to an end as Ashwin strikes. SL 116-6, 16.2 overs.
Dasun Shanaka c Raina b Ashwin 27 (18b 0x4 3x6)
Bumrah goes for 13 with Shanaka hoisting him for a six over midwicket. SL 115-5, 16 overs.
Shanaka has clubbed Raina for a couple of sixes. SL 102, 15 overs.
Siriwardana has swept Jadeja to midwicket for a towering six. SL 86-5, 14 overs.
Dhoni has pulled off another brilliant stump to send back Chandimal. SL 68-5, 11.3 overs.
Dinesh Chandimal st Dhoni b Jadeja 31 (30b 2x4)
Kapugedera survives a catch being grassed the previous but Pandya holds onto a skier off Jadeja. SL 68-4, 11.2 overs.
Chamara Kapugedera c Pandya b Jadeja 32 (27b 3x4 1x6)
Kapugedera is keeping Sri Lanka in the hunt thumping a massive six off Yuvraj. SL 53-3, 9 overs.
Kapugedera cracks a couple of boundaries off Nehra on either side of the wicket. SL 37-3, 6 overs.
Kapugedera opens his account by hooking a bouncer from Nehra to the fine leg fence. SL 21-3, 4 overs.
Nehra has struck again having Gunathilaka caught behind. SL 16-3, 3.2 overs.
Danushka Gunathilaka c Dhoni b Nehra 2 (7b)
Nehra strikes with his first delivery as Prasanna holes out to mid-off. SL 3-2, 1.1 overs.
Seekkuge Prasanna c Yuvraj Singh b Nehra 1 (4b)
Sensational start for India as Dilshan is brilliant stumped for a golden duck as Sri Lanka begin chasing 197. SL 2-1, 0.1 overs.
Tillakaratne Tillakaratne Dilshan st Dhoni b Ashwin 0 (1b)
Sri Lankan paceman Thisara Perera became the fourth cricketer to claim a hat-trick in Twenty20 internationals in the second match of the three-game series against India on Friday.
The 26-year-old bowler dismissed Hardik Pandya, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh off successive deliveries in the penultimate over of the Indian innings to achieve the feat at Ranchi's JSCA International Stadium.
Australian Brett Lee and the New Zealand duo of Jacob Oram and Tim Southee have also claimed hat-tricks in Twenty20 internationals.
Perera's 3-33 helped Sri Lanka restrict India to 196 for six after the hosts, eyeing a series-levelling win, threatened to post a 200-plus target.
India made a formidable 196-6 despite a hat-trick in the 19th over by Thisara Perera after Sri Lanka put them into bat in the second T20I at Ranchi on Friday.
The hosts seeking to level the series were propelled by blistering knocks by Rohit Sharma (43), Shikhar Dhawan (51) and a brilliant cameo from Pandya (27).
Thisara finished with three for 33 while Chameera claimed two for 38.
Yuvraj holes out to the fielder in the deep as Thisara grabs a hat-trick, the fourth in T20 internationals. Ind 186-6, 19 overs.
Yuvraj Singh c Senanayake b Perera 0 (1b)
Thisara is on a hat-trick as Pandya and Raina depart in quick succession. Ind 186-5, 18.5 overs.
Suresh Raina c Chameera b Perera 30 (19b 5x4 0x6)
Hardik Pandya c Gunathilaka b Perera 27 (12b 1x4 2x6)
Chameera goes for 18 with Raina plundering four boundaries. Ind 179-3, 18 overs.
Pandya announces his arrival by pummelling Senanayake for two consecutive sixes. Ind 161-3, 17 overs.
Senanayake strikes as Rahane lobs a catch to point. Ind 127-3, 14.2 overs.
Ajinkya Rahane c Dilshan b Senanayake 25 (21b)
Chameera takes a superb return catch to dismiss Rohit. Ind 122-2, 13.1 overs.
Rohit Sharma c & b Chameera 43 (36b 2x4 1x6)
Rahane is turning it on cracking two consecutive boundaries off Shanaka. Ind 122-1, 13 overs.
Rohit has clubbed Prasanna over midwicket for a massive six. Ind 110-1, 12 overs.
Rahane pulls Siriwardane to midwicket for his first boundary. Ind 87-1, 9 overs.
Chameera gets a breakthrough as Dhawan fends at a rising ball to be caught behind. Ind 75-1, 7 overs.
Shikhar Dhawan c Chandimal b Chameera 51 (25b 7x4 2x6)
Dhawan is on a roll thumping Thisara on either side of the wicket for a couple of boundaries. Ind 70-0, 6 overs.
Rajitha has been hammered for four boundaries on the off, three by Dhawan. Ind 44-0, 4 overs.
Dhawan is on song sweeping Senanayake over backward square leg for another six. Ind 27-0, 3 overs.
Dhawan swings Thisara with a pick-up shot over square leg for the first maximum. Ind 18-0, 2 overs.
Rohit cracks a wide ball from Rajitha first ball to the fence. Ind 7-0, 1 over.
Dinesh Chandimal has won the toss and put India into bat in the 2nd T20 at Ranchi on Friday.
Dilshan comes in for Dickwella while India are unchanged.
India: RG Sharma, S Dhawan, AM Rahane, SK Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, HH Pandya, RA Jadeja, R Ashwin, JJ Bumrah, A Nehra
Sri Lanka: TM Dilshan, MD Gunathilaka, LD Chandimal, CK Kapugedera, TAM Siriwardana, MD Shanaka, S Prasanna, NLTC Perera, SMSM Senanayake, CAK Rajitha, PVD Chameera
The pressure in on MS Dhoni and India after a surprise loss in Pune against a largely inexperienced Sri Lanka side to level the three-match T20I series in Ranchi on Friday.
The Lankans will be boosted by the return of Tillakaratne Dilshan after missing the series-opener owing to a hand injury.
The young Lankans have everything to gain in this series.
Debutant Kasun Rajitha picked up three crucial wickets to help a depleted Sri Lanka stun the top-ranked Indians by clinching a five-wicket win in the first Twenty20 international in Pune Tuesday.
The inexperienced Sri Lankan pace attack skittled out their hosts for a paltry 101 in 18.5 overs, India's third lowest score in T20 cricket.
After Rajitha took the wickets of India's first three batsman, Dasun Shanaka bagged three other top order scalps on a bouncy wicket in Pune.
Sri Lanka made hard work at times of meeting their target, losing five wickets during the chase, but the Dinesh Chandimal-led side eventually eased home with two overs to spare.
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