India’s top order came to the party in the opening ODI against Sri Lanka in Guwahati on Tuesday (January 10) as the hosts posted a commanding 373 on the board. The openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill laid an ideal platform with a 143-run stand before Virat Kohli took charge to bring up his 45th ODI century as the Sri Lankan bowlers came under the pump in conditions that were excellent for batting.
India made a dream start in the powerplay with both the openers making merry. Rohit got going with a gentle drive straight down the ground and Gill got a cut through point in the second over to signal his intentions. Rohit then took on Kasun Rajitha in the third over with Gill hammering Dilshan Madushanka for a hat-trick of boundaries in the following over as India raced to 35 after just four overs. The boundary spree continued as Rohit took on Rajitha to smash two sixes in an over and India put up 75 on the board at the end of the 10-over mark.
Both Rohit and Gill survived close lbw calls and went onto bring up their respective half-centuries as well. With the century stand up in 15 overs, Sri Lanka badly needed a breakthrough to wrest control. But Gill cut loose against Dunith Wellalage and fetched three successive boundaries and Rohit finished that over with a six straight down the ground. Dasun Shanaka then took it upon himself to end the stand as he trapped Gill leg-before-wicket for 70, much to Sri Lanka’s relief.
Kohli then got going immediately and raced to 18 off just 12 but Sri Lanka struck again, this time denying Rohit a hundred as the Indian skipper inside-edged Madushanka onto his stumps. Despite the loss of the openers, India ensured their run rate didn’t dip as the likes of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul displayed intent and came up with valuable contributions. Iyer looked dangerous when he smashed Wanindu Hasaranga for a six but a mistimed sweep off Dhananjaya de Silva saw him depart for 28.
Rahul took a bit of time to get going and was batting on 8 off 12 before a full toss from Wellalage helped him find his touch. The two batters smashed a six each off Dhananjaya but Sri Lanka could have easily stemmed the flow of runs in the following over had Kusal Mendis managed to hold onto a regulation catch behind the wicket when Rajitha found Kohli’s outside edge. Sri Lanka were made to pay immediately as three boundaries followed suit in the same over to rub salt into their wounds.
By the end of the 40th over, India already had 294 on the board and that magical number 400 was definitely on the cards with Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel to follow. However, a slower ball from around the wicket from Rajitha cut-short Rahul’s stay as the bowler hit the leg stump and Hardik failed to fire to depart for just 14.
Those two wickets came at a vital juncture but Sri Lanka could have caused more damage had Shanaka held onto a catch at extra cover as Kohli received a second reprieve. He made it count and brought up three figures in back-to-back ODIs before falling for 113. India’s long tail meant no boundaries in the final two overs that could have pushed them towards 400 but they will still fancy themselves to get to a 1-0 lead.