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IND vs SL 1st ODI: India feast on Kohli-ty walls

Walking in at an extremely comfortable 143 for 1 on Tuesday, Virat Kohli scored his 45th century in the ODIs. Not to take anything away from him, but pedestrian would be a compliment for this Sri Lankan bowling attack. If Sri Lankan bowlers were all over the place, the fielding was equally bad. Kohli was dropped twice — on 52 and 81, and Kasun Rajitha was the unlucky bowler both the time.

Dasun Shanaka’s team looked below par in all departments as they got outplayed by 67 runs by a strong Indian team. Chasing a mammoth 374 on a good batting pitch, Sri Lanka ended with 306 for 8. The margin looked lesser because, towards the end, Indian bowlers failed to wrap up the tail and Sri Lankan captain Shanaka (108 not out off 88b; 12×4, 3×6) made the most of it. He scored his second ODI century and put on an unbeaten 100-run stand with Kasun Rajitha for the ninth wicket.

Flying start by the openers

Flying start by the openers

After being put into bat, Indian openers Rohit Sharma (83 off 67b; 9×4, 3×6) and Shubman Gill (70 off 60b; 11×4) put on 143 runs for the opening wicket. At the end of the powerplay, India was 75 without losing any sweat. They showed intent right from the word go and the poor bowling from Sri Lanka also helped their case. Rohit looked at ease and was at his attacking best. At the other end, his young partner matched him stroke for stroke. Given the relative ease with which they scored, it is safe to say both Rohit and Gill missed out on scoring a century. Gill was given lbw after playing across the line off Shanaka’s bowling. Debutant Madushanka cleaned up Rohit to get his maiden ODI wicket.

Kohli rises to the occasion

With the openers failing to convert their starts at the other end, Kohli kept one side intact. It was a typical Kohli knock, who walked in and played the sheet anchor’s role to its perfection. He reached his first fifty in 52 balls. The next fifty came in just 38 balls, before he was dismissed in the 49th over, when he was trying to up the ante and Kusan Mendis, who had dropped a regulation catch earlier, grabbed a skier and Rajitha finally had his man.

It was not Kohli’s most dominating knock but he showed signs of returning to his best in his favourite format. Be it his flick while running down the crease against the gentle pace of Shanaka or coming skipping down the wicket and hitting Dhananjaya de Silva for a flat six over mid-wicket or for that matter the ferocious ramp shot against Rajitha, Kohli was at his usual elements. His knock must be a pleasing sign for head coach Rahul Dravid and Rohit as Kohli is beginning to show consistency in the format, especially with the 50-over World Cup scheduled for later this year.
It was Kohli’s second back-to-back century in the ODIs. Earlier, Kohli ended his ODI century drought during India’s tour of Bangladesh. India’s No 3 had remained century-less for 1214 days. Kohli reached another ODI milestone, equaling Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 20 ODI tons at home. While Tendulkar reached the landmark in 164 matches, Kohli has taken only 101 games. Kohli also surpassed Tendulkar’s record of most centuries against Sri Lanka in ODIs. Tendulkar has eight to his credit, while Kohli has nine now.

Cameos from Iyer and Rahul

Apart from Kohli, Shreyas Iyer (28 off 24b; 3×4, 1×6) looked fluent but failed to convert his start. Underfire KL Rahul (39 off 29b; 4×4, 1×6)) also could not make it big and was bowled around the legs after being deceived by a slower one from Rajitha.

After 40 overs, India were 294 for 3 and were looking set to touch the 400-run mark. India lacked the finishing touch in the last ten overs as they only managed to get 79 runs and lost four wickets.

For Sri Lanka, Rajitha (3/88) was the pick of the bowlers.

Impressive from pace battery

And if Sri Lanka, whose body language in the field was curiously devoid of energy or intent, were hoping for a respite with the bat, it wasn’t to be as India’s pace trio of Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Umran Malik bowled with fire and pace.

In his opening spell, Siraj landed a double blow on the visitors by removing Avishka Fernando (5) and Kusal Mendis (0). Umran then strangled Charitha Asalanka (23) down the leg side.

Pathum Nissanka (72) and Dhananjaya de Silva (47) put on a quick 72-run stand for the fourth wicket, but their fighting alliance was broken by Shami, who drew the edge, and Rahul grabbed a regulation catch. The extra pace of Umran ended Nissanka’s valiant knock. As soon as he saw the short ball, Nissanka went for the pull, but the pace hurried him and he ended up giving an easy catch to Axar Patel at mid-wicket.

Next in, Hasaranga took on fellow leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. He smoked two sixes over the deep mid-wicket region then followed it with a beautiful inside-out shot over the covers. His adventurous stay came to an end as his wild hoick was caught by Iyer.

Meanwhile, Umran was not done yet. Dunith Wellalage departed without troubling the scorers. He was also done by the extra pace and Gill took a good sharp catch at the first slip. Vice-captain Hardik Pandya joined the act as Chamika Karunarathne charged down the track and ended up driving it straight to Rohit Sharma, patrolling at mid-on.

Rohit withdraws run-out appeal

There was a little drama in the 50th over of the match. In the third ball of the over, Shami ran Shanaka out at the non-striker’s end for backing up too early. However, the appeal was withdrawn after Rohit had a word with the bowler.“I had no idea Shami did that (run-out); he was batting on 98. The way he batted was brilliant. We cannot get him out like that. Not something that we thought off, hats off to him, he played well,” said Rohit after the game.

Brief scores: India 373/7 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 113, Rohit Sharma 80, Shubman Gill 70; Kasun Rajitha 3/83) bt Sri Lanka 306 for 8 in 50 overs (Dasun Shanaka 108; Umran Malik 3/57, Mohammes Siraj 2/30) by 67 runs.

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