Virat Kohli was once again the architect of a successful Indian chase, one that clinched the ODI series for India, who took an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. Kohli anchored India’s response to 251, and was helped along by Suresh Raina, who struck his third half-century of the series, each of them in an Indian win. Both had their moments of fortune, just when Sri Lanka had fought their way back, but once set, they approached the target confidently, never allowing the require-rate to go above six and often being imperious in their shot-making. A game that promised to be close at one point eventually produced a dominant winner.
25 overs India 114 for 4 (Kohli 44*, Raina 3*) need another 138 runs to beat Sri Lanka 251 for 8
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka’s seamers put India under pressure, picking up four wickets by the halfway mark in a chase of 252, but Virat Kohli was an assuring presence for the visitors in their bid to take an unassailable lead in the series.
India were dealt an early blow when Lasith Malinga bowled Gautam Gambhir with an inswinging yorker in the first over. Gambhir probably misjudged the length, going hard at the ball. Virender Sehwag, at the other end, was fluent and attacking when the ball was there to be hit, but not rash.
Thisara Perera was involved in each of Sehwag’s dismissals this series prior to today’s match but it was Sehwag who won the contest today. He drove Perera through the line, then slashed him past third man before punching him through the covers. Sehwag defended solidly and was circumspect when needed, displaying an intent to bat long. His two boundaries off Perera – his first five boundaries came off Perera’s bowling – in the sixth over took minimum effort but had impeccable timing.
His innings, however, was cut short by Angelo Mathews. Sehwag tried to whip a short delivery through midwicket, got a leading edge and was caught by substitute fielder Sachitra Senanayake, who reacted quickly at extra cover, diving to his left. A nervous Rohit Sharma, possibly fighting for a place in the side, walked in with two ducks behind him, played and missed, and got off the mark in desperate fashion, trying to slap a wide delivery over mid-off. He got away, but not for long as debutant Nuwan Pradeep trapped him in front when he tried to drive across the line. The umpire’s call to check for a no-ball only prolonged his anxiety, but he knew he’d fluffed another chance.
At 60 for 3, India were under pressure but Kohli batted determinedly. He began with an audacious pull off Malinga but played a supporting role to Sehwag. He survived a run-out chance after Rohit fell, but settled in to rebuild the innings. He ran well with Tiwary, pressing for twos when the field spread, flayed Pradeep through extra cover, was the beneficiary of an overthrow that cost four and took India past 100. Tiwary glanced Pradeep past fine leg, then flicked Perera over square leg but was lbw when trying to sweep a straighter one from Jeevan Mendis. A loud caught-behind appeal gave Suresh Raina some early jitters, and much was left to him and Kohli to see India through.
50 overs Sri Lanka 251 for 8 (Tharanga 51, Thirimanne 47, Tiwary 4-61) v India
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
When it was known that Manoj Tiwary would replace Rahul Sharma, not Rohit Sharma, in India’s XI, a depleted bowling attack on a batting-friendly track would have prompted many to question the move. As it turned out, Tiwary had an impact even before he got a chance to bat as he picked up four wickets and helped, along with the other India part-time bowlers, to slow down Sri Lanka’s innings and restrict them to 251. Sri Lanka would consider that just about par, especially after a 91-run opening stand, and India were left with a good chance to take the series. Such was the effectiveness of India’s non-regular bowlers – they bowled 22 overs for 112 runs and five wickets – that Zaheer Khan only bowled six overs.
Sri Lanka’s depth in batting and India’s death-overs woes with the ball were two factors the hosts would have aimed to capitalise on. But batsman after batsman struggled to get a move-on. The slowness of the pitch may have played a part in their difficulty in middling the ball consistently, but it certainly shouldn’t have prevented them from rotating the strike, running the singles and twos once the field was spread out as the Powerplays were used up by the 20th over. The only batsmen, apart from the openers, who showed it could be done were Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne, during their half-century stand for the third wicket.
Chandimal and Thirimanne ran well between the wickets and their 50-run association included just two boundaries. Both batsmen cut the ball well and Chandimal was adept at using the paddle-sweep; the partnership produced seven twos, moved along at close to five an over and was aided by a relatively sloppy performance in the field as misfields were common and Virat Kohli put down a straightforward catch. The pair had played R Ashwin and Virender Sehwag largely comfortably, but Tiwary’s introduction in the 32nd over triggered a slide.
Tiwary was unthreatening but steady, his bowling devoid of variations but he found some turn. And, occasionally, he was fortunate. A long hop that could have been dispatched anywhere was struck straight to deep-square leg by Chandimal. When Mahela Jayawardene miscued an attempted sweep to be caught by Dhoni off Sehwag three balls later, Sri Lanka were pushed back into rebuilding mode. That rebuilding was proved time-consuming when Angelo Mathews took too long to open up, playing out a maiden from Tiwary and crawling to 14 off 32 balls. When he decided to attack, he holed out to long-off.
Jeevan Mendis showed some urgency, sweeping and reverse-sweeping Ashwin for boundaries, but Tiwary, who had grown in confidence, not hesitating to toss the ball up in the late overs, was to strike again. Mendis was bowled while missing the reverse-sweep and Thisara Perera struck one straight down deep midwicket’s throat in the same over. India would have hoped to wrap up the innings when Thirimanne was bowled for 47 to leave Sri Lanka at 219 for 8.
But the Sri Lanka tail bit back. Dhoni persisted with Tiwary, who was clobbered by Lasith Malinga over midwicket for a six and then went on to concede 18 in the final over of the innings. Malinga targeted cow-corner again and Rangana Herath smashed a four and a six past wide long-on, taking Sri Lanka past 250. This, when Zaheer had four overs left. Dhoni, and India, will believe they have the batting to ensure that last-over slip-up doesn’t cost them.