There’s a truism with Virat Kohli in ODI cricket. When he scores a century, India win. Spurred on by another dominating batting performance from their man of the season, India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium to take an unassailable lead in the five-match series. It was also India's 400th ODI victory.
Manoj Tiwary’s career-best figures of 4 for 61, surpassing even his domestic List A figures, helped ensure that India were set an eminently attainable 252 for victory. But it was Kohli’s 14th ODI century – and fifth in eighth innings – that ensured they won at a canter with more than seven overs to spare.
It was a shoddy performance in the field from Sri Lanka. Thisara Perera, who has been a thorn in India’s side before today, was dispatched for 51 runs in six overs. Lasith Malinga, after a wicket-maiden opening over, conceded 41 in his next seven with Kohli and Raina tucking into him during the home stretch. There were dropped catches too, crucially a dolly of a drop by Mahela Jayawardene at slip when Raina was on 19 and then when Kohli was on 100.
The key protagonist of the day was Kohli. He walked in to face the sixth ball of India’s chase after Malinga yorker India’s centurion from the previous game, Gautam Gambhir, for 0. He played second fiddle to Virender Sehwag who hit 34 from 29 balls in a 52-run stand. He looked on as the debutant fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep extracted Rohit Sharma for another single-digit score. Kohli then dominated a 49-run stand with Tiwary before the latter attempted a needless sweep shot and went for 21.
His innings was characterized by his habit of standing tall at the crease and driving through the off side and on with panache, and crucially accelerating after he crossed the 50-mark. Kohli’s first 50 runs took 65 balls; the next 50 needed just 41. He raced through the nineties in two balls, swatting Perera over mid-on for four and launching the next ball for six. The landmark came up next ball as Lasith Malinga was pulled over square leg with contempt. Just short of watching Raina hit the winning runs, Kohli passed 1000 runs for the year – in July.
Playing a role in another match-winning stand was Raina, who finished on 58 off 51 balls. He ran hard as always to get into the twenties and by the time he produced a fluent pick-up six off a Pradeep length ball, it was clear that India would not lose this match.
On another hot and sunny day, Jayawardene won the toss and chose to bat in hopes that Sri Lanka could pile up a strong total. It was not be, however, as the openers took their time to get going. The first wicket didn’t fall until the 19th over when Tillakaratne Dilshan was caught behind for 42 off Ashok Dinda, but thereafter the innings unraveled.
Upul Tharanga (51 off 73 balls) was bowled by R Ashwin when attempting an ugly heave, and then it was over to India’s slew of part-timers. Tiwary, drafted in for Rahul Sharma, picked up the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis and Perera. Sehwag bowled well in spell of 8-1-38-1 as the bowlers kept a lid on the scoring. Even an 18-run final over from Tiwart wasn’t enough to stop India running away with the series.