Kohli steps up another gear, India draw first blood
Two centuries, one from the rookie-coming-off-age, Kohli and the other from the talisman, Kumar Sangakkara. In the end, Sri Lanka lacked the firepower and lost by 21 runs, while chasing 315 runs.
The sub-continental teams were meeting at Hambantota for the first of the five-match ODI series. Sri Lanka just completed a series victory over Pakistan and were in fine form at home. India on the other hand, were coming in after an exile from international cricket.
The pitch was hard, dry and seemed a flat deck. MS Dhoni won the toss and he chose to bat first. India went with two spinner, Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin and two quickies, Umesh Yadav and the experienced Zaheer Khan. Irfan Pathan was kept as the all-rounder and Manoj Tiwary was left once again to warm the bench for the umpteenth time.
Virender Sehwag was looking rusty early and Dilshan dropped a sitter to allow him another chance. There was a run-out chance missed as well. Gambhir fell early and in came the man in prime form, Virat Kohli. He and Sehwag got together well and saw off the initials stages with some sensible batting, just the singles taken and the odd boundary on offer and ended the Quick Start Overs with 45 runs on the board.
Surprisingly, they took the Batting Powerplay quite early and scored 32 runs in Powerplay 1 with no loss. The bowling was not great to be mentioned but Thisara Perera bowled well, only to fall victim to unfortunate dropped chances.
They stitched a 171-run partnership for the second wicket and then, Sehwag was run-out on 96, to miss out on a century. Virat Kohli went on to complete his 22nd ODI century, his fourth in the last five innings. Suresh Raina played with him and struck some good blows to get to his half-century.
Dhoni too came up with a handy knock and India ended at 315. Virat Kohli received the best Batting Momentum of 142 for his 113-ball 106, while Sehwag received a Batting Momentum of 133. Thisara Perera attained the best Bowling Efficiency of 134 for his figures of 3/70.
Chasing the total, the Lankans got off to a bad start as they lost in-form Dilshan in just the 2nd over of the match when Irfan Pathan trapped him leg before with a tremendous inswinger. He was earlier dropped at first slip by Sehwag. Tharanga was playing cautiously at the other end as he started the rebuilding process with Kumar Sangakkara. They scraped to 41/1 at he end of Quick Start Overs.
The pair added 77 runs from 17.3 overs before Ashwin, who was troubling the left-handers with his off spinners finally removed him for 28 in the Bowling Powerplay. The Bowling Powerplay proved to be useful for Indians as they conceded just 20 runs and picked up a wicket. Chandimal and Jayawardena departed early but Sangakkara held one end up brought up his half-century off 78 balls.
Sangakkara needed some support from the middle order, his most experienced partner in the name of Mahela Jayawardena, was trapped in front by Ashwin while trying a silly scoop. Mathews and Thirimanne too fell in quick time and the onus was on Thisara Perera to come late.
The asking rate crept up to more than 8 runs per over and Sangakkara looked in no hurry and waited. Perera then struck some lusty blows. He took a crucial over of Zaheer Khan, the 45th over for 14 runs, and suddenly, there was a glimmer of hope for Sri Lanka. Sangakkara then tried to up the ante but was cleaned up while trying to scoop a ball off Umesh Yadav.
In the end, Perera remained unbeaten after putting up a lone fight but the tail-enders just could not do anything. Perera fell too and that fueled all hopes of Sri Lanka to win this one. There was a very late flurry of shots from Lasith Malinga but they were all-out in the last ball of the innings.
Virat Kohli was named the Man of the Match. India finished at 57 points, leaving Sri Lanka at 50 points in the Overall Castrol Update, and won by a margin of 7 points. For his fine hundred, Kumar Sangakkara topped the Batting Momentum with 170. Irfan Pathan, who bowled splendidly with the new ball, took Bowling Efficiency of 161 for an economic spell. There was a close fight on the Overall Performance Index but in the end, Kumar Sangakkara took it with 63 points.