Ruthless India go 4-0 up

There are times when not a lot separates two sides on a cricket field. In a 5-match ODI series, one would expect both sides of great cricketing history to be at it and offer some competitive cricket for the fans. However, in the ODI series between India and Sri Lanka, there has been a lot of difference between the two teams. India have been consistent with their performances, whether they bat or field first. Sri Lanka, on the other hand have struggled and sparks of brilliance have been mere aberrations. India thumped Sri Lanka once again, with a 168-run victory. India’s batting powerhouses were on exhibition, as they notched up a massive 375/5, while the Lankans fell well short of the target.

Virat Kohli was back to winning ways at the toss against a Lasith Malinga led Sri Lankan side. Sri Lanka have been struggling with injuries to some of their players which has forced them to keep on changing their captains. It was a milestone game for MS Dhoni, who donned his ODI shirt for the 300th time. He became the first Indian wicket-keeper to get to the landmark, and the sixth Indian cricketer. India made three changes to their line-up, bringing in Manish Pandey and Kuldeep Yadav, while they handed Shardul Thakur his ODI debut. Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had to sit it out which meant Jasprit Bumrah was the leader of the pace attack. Sri Lanka also made a few changes to their line-up, Wanindu Hasaranga and Malinda Pushpakumara were back in the side and Dilshan Munaweera was making his ODI debut.

The man in form, Shikhar Dhawan departed early, when he slashed one to third man and the ball went straight to the fielder. Vishwa Fernando started his spell with a wicket maiden and gave Sri Lanka the early breakthrough. The hosts had very little to cheer about after Dhawan’s failure. Virat Kohli looked in piping hot form, as he went at the ball from the word go. He dispatched Fernando for three consecutive boundaries in the fourth over. The Indian skipper continued to pick on the Lankan bowlers, while Rohit took his time in settling in at the other end.

Rohit decided to open his shoulders soon. He hit his first boundary off, as he slammed Mathews for an authoritative boundary over cover, moving into a higher gear. Mathews received more punishment in his next over, as Rohit pulled him for an effortless maximum, over mid-wicket. Kohli raced into the 40s with a flurry of boundaries and got to his 45th ODI fifty in the 11th over itself. Rohit Sharma didn’t allow Akila Dananjaya to settle down. In his second over of the day, Rohit stepped out and pulled him for a boundary, and finished the over with a biggie into the stands beyond mid-wicket. These strikes brought up India’s 100, in just the 14th over. An assault was on over Sri Lanka, and the pair at the crease were scripting something special.

Kohli & Sharma began matching each other, shot for shot. All of the Lankan bowlers were put to the sword, which was being swung ferociously at them. Boundaries became a common sight for the fielders, as Kohli and Sharma pelted the ball to all corners of the ground. When Kohli got into the 90s, Rohit took over the mantle of the big hitting, allowing the skipper to close in on a blazing century. Kohli got there in the 25th over, off just 76 balls. This was his 17th ODI ton as skipper, the most by any Indian captain.

Kohli went all guns blazing after he got to three figures. He blasted a six and a four off Fernando, in the 26th over, taking India beyond the 200-run mark. However, soon after that he went after Malinga’s full delivery and threw his bat at the ball, only to hole out in the deep. The wicket was Lasith Malinga’s 300th in ODIs, a feat he was on the brink of right from the start of the series.

Hardik Pandya received a promotion with India going at over seven runs per over. He received an early life, when he was adjudged caught off an inside edge by the umpire. A stunned Hardik went for the review, fairly confidently.. Replays confirmed Hardik’s claim and the decision was overturned. He went on to pick one of Dananjaya’s googlies and sent it soaring over the fence.

Rohit Sharma got to his 13th ODI century in the 34th over, when he punched a full toss by Malinga, down the ground, to the fence. Mathews was brought back in the 35th over, and delivered with the wicket of Hardik Pandya on the third ball of the over. Pandya looked to belt the medium pacer out of the park, but miscued the ball and was caught in the deep. On the very next ball, Mathews bowled a short one that was gloved by Rohit to the keeper. He seemed to have tried to help the ball with a delicate upper cut, but it turned out to be too close to his body. All of a sudden, India lost two wickets in quick succession.

Karnataka’s KL Rahul and Manish Pandey got together to keep India going. Rahul however, fell to Dananjaya once again, chipping the ball to mid-wicket in what turned out to be a soft dismissal. The onus of finishing the innings fell on MS Dhoni once again, along with Manish Pandey who made his return to playing an ODI for India. The pair saw off a few overs, to ensure that India didn’t lose anymore wickets. After settling in, Pandey and Dhoni began to pick up boundaries at a fair clip. India’s 300 came up in the 43rd over.

A great battle ensued between two players into their respective 300-clubs. Dhoni vs Malinga provided a great contest for the viewers. Malinga nearly got the better of MSD when he got the former Indian skipper to miscue a heave high in the air at short third man. Munaweera got under the ball, but fluffed it. Dhoni made the most of the reprieve and blasted Malinga for a maximum, later in the over. He couldn’t complete his half-century, but Manish Pandey got there in the final over, as India notched up a massive 375/5 in their 50 overs.

Sri Lanka began the chase with some attacking intent. Dickwella decided to dictate terms to India’s in-form and senior-most bowler, Jasprit Bumrah. He smacked two boundaries, in typical Sanath Jayasuriya fashion in the second over of the innings. He even punished debutante, Shardul Thakur in the third over. However, Dickwella’s stay was cut-short by a poor ball, coupled with a smart call by Dhoni that prompted Kohli to take the review. Shardul’s ball was down the leg side, but it was quick. Dickwella was late on his pull, and Dhoni had heard a sound before he collected the ball. The umpire signalled a wide, but Kohli went ahead with the review after consulting Dhoni. The decision was overturned and India had their first wicket.

Kusal Mendis’ lean run in the series continued with a piece of brilliance by KL Rahul, on the field. Kusal was half way down the pitch when Munaweera turned him down. Rahul swooped in from point and smashed the stumps at the non-striker’s end, finding Mendis well short. A couple of overs later, Dhoni’s brilliance and presence of mind gifted Bumrah and India another wicket. Dhoni collected one more delivery down the leg side and his appeal was turned down. He felt there was a deflection and asked Kohli to go for the review. India managed to overturn one more decision, and Munaweera had to make his way back.

Two experienced batsmen, Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews got together and looked to rebuild the innings, and keep Sri Lanka in the hunt. Mathews, who bowled well decided to take on India’s part-timer of the day, Virat Kohli. He picked off a couple of boundaries off the Indian skipper in the 14th over. Lahiru Thirimanne had scored a good 80 runs in the second ODI, and was looking to get his eye in. He went after Hardik Pandya, when the bowler dished out a bouncer. Thirimanne hooked it for a biggie. On the next ball, a loose one which was short and wide, Thirimanne looked to cart it over the fence on the off side. However, he didn’t get all of it, and found Dhawan at deep point.

Mathews tried his best to stay positive, and picked up a few boundaries off the Indian bowlers. Siriwardana provided some able company to the former Lankan skipper. The dup put up 73 runs between each other, but they couldn’t make the stand count. Siriwardana tried to capitalise on a full and wide delivery off Hardik, but ended up getting a faint edge, through to Dhoni, who plucked his third catch of the night. Mathews continued with composure and went on to score his half-century in the 31st over. Hasaranga, who got off to a promising start and seemed to be providing some support to Mathews, was run out when he got off the blocks searching for a non-existent single. Sri Lanka were six down and whatever hopes the fans had, were all pinned on Mathews from there on.

With no option left, but to up the ante, Mathews looked to unleash his aggressive side, when less than 15 overs remained. The tactic didn’t pay off for Mathews, as he gave Axar Patel his first scalp of the night. Mathews tried to slog a wide delivery outside off, but ended up top edging the sweep to Thakur at short third man. With that wicket, Sri Lanka’s hopes of giving India any fight ended.

Pushpakumara and Dananjaya played out a few balls in an attempt to play out the full quota of overs. They managed to do so for a brief period, but Bumrah brought an end to the attempt. Pushpakumara looked to ramp a shortish delivery over third man, but could only find Hardik over there. Kuldeep Yadav wrapped up the match for India as he claimed the wickets of Fernando and last man, Malinga off consecutive balls.

Sri Lanka never looked like they were in the game. They leaked too many runs with the ball, and couldn’t keep up with the asking rate, with the bat either. The highest partnership of their innings was worth 73 runs. They kept losing wickets at regular intervals and India had their foot in the door at all times. The Sri Lankans will be disappointed with their performance and will now have to play the qualifying matches of the 2019 World Cup. The final game of the series is on Sunday, 3rd September at the same venue. Kohli and his men will be keen on completing yet another whitewash.


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