Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 139 (126) led India to a three-wicket win in a nail-biting finish in the last game of the five-match ODI series in Ranchi. A maiden ODI century by Angelo Mathews was the saving grace for the visitors after being reduced to 85/4 in the 19th over. Assisted by Lahiru Thirimanne, the Sri Lankan captain revived the innings and powered the side to 286/8 with an unbeaten 139 after electing to bat. The SL captain returned to remove the hosts’ openers in the first five overs but his opposite number fought to seize victory in a high-pressure chase. While Mathews’ 139 went in vain, Kohli’s knock helped India claim the series 5-0. (Also Read: Virat emulates Ganguly, Kapil as he leads India to a 5-0 win over Sri Lanka)
Chasing the respectable total, India lost both their openers early. Mathews who had batted with determination to set up the game dislodged Ajinkya Rahane’s bails and in his next over castled Rohit Sharma to leave India on 14/2. Bowling a tight line, the pacer had knocked off the middle-stump of both openers.
Ambati Rayudu and Kohli then bided their time at the crease before taking on the SL bowlers. In the over after the mandatory powerplay, Rayudu attacked Mathews with gusto. He struck the pacer through mid-wicket and mid-on to the fence as they collected 15 runs from the over. The pair garnered runs at an unhurried pace.
Aggressive of the two in the partnership, Kohli was the first to reach fifty with a boundary off Ajantha Mendis. The batsman was in sublime touch as he brought up India’s 100-run mark in the next over.
While Kohli found the gaps and scored at a quicker pace, Rayudu held-up the other end and supported his captain in keeping the momentum going. A while later, the No.3 batsman upper-cut Lahiru Gamage to get to his half-century. However with the partnership worth 136 and the team on 150, a mix-up in the middle saw Rayudu run out for 59.
The end of the partnership that had kept India cruising along let SL back into the game. Mendis then ripped apart the middle-order to keep the visitors in the fray.
A brilliant catch by Mathews diving to his right at mid-wicket sent Robin Uthappa back for 19 off Mendis. With 107 runs still required, debutant Kedar Jadhav took guard opposite Kohli and got off the mark with a single to long-on and looked in good touch. However six overs later, the middle-order batsman lost his stumps to Mendis for 20 and departed leaving the match hanging in balance.
Kohli who had meanwhile kept the India in the game notched up his 21st century with a single to third-man off Shaminda Eranga. But even as he strove to take India to the target he kept losing partners. In the following over, Stuart Binny stepping out to Mendis was stumped while Ravichandran Ashwin was trapped lbw off the next ball.
With Axar Patel at the other end, Kohli counter-attacked to keep up with the rising required run-rate. He dismissed Mendis over extra cover for six and struck a boundary straight down the ground. Showing once again why he has earned a name for himself as a master of chases, the top-order batsman held his nerve and milked the SL bowlers with clinical precision.
With 13 required off 12 balls, Kohli lofted Mendis over on for six to bring India within sniffing distance of the target. And two balls and two singles later smashed the bowler over long on to seal the match and series with a six with eight balls to spare.
Earlier in the Sri Lankan innings, although Niroshan Dickwella lasted longer in the middle than the batter he had replaced, Kusal Perera, he wasn’t out there long enough to make a difference to the side. Done in by a slower delivery from Dhawal Kulkarni, he hit the ball towards square-leg where Rayudu took the catch diving forward.
Tillakratane Dilshan who had got off to a shaky start was the next to be sent back 13 runs later. The senior batsman was deceived by change in pace by Binny. The ball grazed past the bat pad and struck the middle and leg stump to give India another breakthrough. Dinesh Chandimal who then came to the crease battled for 31 deliveries for a mere five runs before taking a swing at Patel only to be caught by Rohit who had to run backwards to catch the lofted shot.
And 12 runs later, Mahela Jayawardene was sent back by Ashwin who had replaced Umesh Yadav as India came in to the game with three spinners.
Lahiru Thirimanne then joined the SL captain the middle and the pair set about rebuilding the innings. Playing watchfully the pair kept the scoreboard ticking with singles, twos and the odd boundary. They laid a solid foundation and ensured that the visitors don’t lose further wickets while taking the innings forward. They negotiated the Indian spinners watchfully as the kept the innings afloat. Batting powerplay had been SL’s undoing in the previous games but in the last encounter the captain ensured that the team saw the period through without any upsets. Even while doing so, Mathews hit Karn Sharma over extra cover for six to bring up his half-century.
In the last ten overs of the innings Mathews worked to capitalise on the diligently laid platform and began by clobbering Rayudu for 20 runs in the 41st over. In the process he smacked India’s part-time bowler for two successive sixes over long-on. In the following over Thirimanne swept Ashwin for six to take SL past 200. And an over later reached his fifty with a single through mid-wicket of Karn. However the flourishing partnership was halted in the next over by Ashwin for 128. Thirimanne looking to clear the ropes was caught by Rayudu near the fence. The captain continued his onslaught and lofted Karn over long-on and mid-wicket for successive sixes in the next over to collect 18 from it. And with two runs off Kulkarni on the on-side he brought up his maiden ton. In the following over he smacked Patel for three sixes, while the spinner claimed Thisara Perera in the over. In the pen-ultimate over, Mathews launched Ashwin twice over the ropes as he looked to add to the total.
However, in the last over India conceded four runs and claimed two wickets. Kulkarni bowling the last over accounted for S Prasanna and Mendis even as Mathews remained unbeaten.
India 288 for 7 (Kohli 139*, Rayudu 59, Mendis 4-73) beat Sri Lanka 286 for 8 (Mathews 139*, Thirimanne 52, Kulkarni 3-57) by three wickets
Man of the Match:Angelo Mathews for his all-round performance
Man of the series: