Superman Kohli takes India home

Skipper's spectacular unbeaten 139 helps India whitewash Sri Lanka 5-0

Superman Kohli takes India home

Angelo Mathews was Sri Lanka’s superman. The gum-chewing, ever-smiling Colombo man took the responsibility of saving the Islanders from the disgrace of a whitewash entirely on his shoulder.

First, he conjured his maiden one-day hundred after a long wait of six years and 137 games, a sublime unbeaten 139 (116b, 6x4, 10x6) that guided Lanka to a competitive 286 for eight in the fifth and final one-dayer at the JSCA stadium here on Sunday.
     
Mathews the bowler surfaced then to make an initial impact once India came out for the chase.

The medium pacer dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma to reduce India to 14 for two in 4.3 overs.

It seemed, then, that the night belonged to Sri Lanka and Mathews.

But India had that one batsman who had masterminded even tougher pursuits, someone whose average stands in the staggering 80s during their victorious run-chases – Virat Kohli.

With Kohli showing the way, India chased down the target for a three-wicket win and blank the visitors 5-0.

Kohli thus far in this series has showed glimpses of his form with a couple of fifties. However, a big score had eluded him.

But on this day, Kohli found himself in a familiar situation.

India were against a stiff target, and for once the Lankan bowlers were not profligate either.

But it was not a familiar innings. This time Kohli held back his flair for a much more rounded innings.

A half-whip-pull boundary off Mathews to mid-wicket and an MS Dhoni-like helicopter six – of course, this is Dhoni country – off Ajantha Mendis added a touch of style to his 21st one-day hundred (139 n.o., 126b, 12x4, 3x6). 

Even Ambati Rayudu, who made a fine 59 before being run out in a mix-up with Kohli, was a tad more aggressive than the Delhiite during their third wicket partnership worth 136 runs in 23.3 overs.

The dismissal of Rayudu sparked a middle-order collapse as Robin Uthappa, debutant Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny and R Ashwin returned to the hut without contributing much.

At 231 for seven, India were under severe pressure for the first time in this series.

As we all know it, the chase brings the best out of Kohli and in the company of Axar Patel, the stand-in skipper guided the home side to a fine victory.

Before the Indian charge, Sri Lanka came up with their most convincing batting performance of the series.

Tillakaratne Dilshan and Niroshan Dickwella added 35 runs for the opening wicket in nearly five overs before Dhawal Kulkarni accounted for the latter.

Dinesh Chandimal, Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene too didn’t hang around for long as Lanka slipped to 85 for four in 19.3 overs.

Another well below-par effort with the bat was very much on the cards then.

But Mathews combined with his deputy Lahiru Thirimanne to milk 128 runs for a calculative fifth wicket alliance.

Gradual acceleration was the feature of their stand.

In the initial phase of the innings, Mathews, who took 26 balls to hit his first boundary, and Thirimanne focused on getting singles and twos.

Even in the batting Power Play between the 36th and 40th overs, the Lankan batsmen were happy to adopt a steady approach.

Once their innings entered the death overs, the Lankans changed the gears.

Mathews carted Ambati Rayudu for 4, 6, 6, in the 41st over, signaling the shift in their methods.

The Lankan skipper went into overdrive even as he lost his partner Thirimanne, who fell to Ashwin for 52.

Mathews, who went past the three-figure mark with a couple off Kulkarni to deep mid-wicket, mowed down the bowlers with ease as Lanka scored 114 runs in the last 10 overs.

However, India had a superman in their ranks. He seldom fails.

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