India’s top order and their bowling attack got the job done on Tuesday (January 10) against Sri Lanka in the opening ODI as the visitors were brushed aside by 67 runs. Virat Kohli hit his 45th ODI century whereas Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill entertained with sparkling fifties to help India post a mammoth score on the board. In reply, the visitors never appeared to threaten India in their pursuit of 374 and had it not been for an unbeaten hundred from their skipper right at the end, they would have lost by an even bigger margin.
Sri Lanka didn’t get off to the greatest of starts even though Nissanka fetched three boundaries inside the first three overs. Mohammed Siraj got rid of the returning Avishka Fernando, who only managed a top edge to get caught for just 5. In his next over, Siraj got one to come back in and knock Kusal Mendis’s stumps as Sri Lanka were put under the pump. Charith Asalanka then made it worse as he walked back to the pavilion after appearing to get a bat through to the keeper while attempting a leg glance. But replays later suggested that the ball had only brushed his towel on its way through to the keeper as the batter failed to take a review and overturn the call.
Amidst all this, Nissanka was the lone warrior putting up a fight at the other end. Dhananjaya de Silva joined in and tried to stabilise the innings before the duo struck seven boundaries in the space of three overs to get going. Nissanka in the process got to his fifty and Dhananjaya at the other end grew in confidence. The allrounder dealt in boundaries and raced to 47 off just 39 as Sri Lanka tried to up the ante close to the halfway mark. But they were stopped in their tracks by Mohammed Shami as Dhananjaya chased a delivery to edge it behind to KL Rahul.
Nissanka was then done by pace as Umran Malik got him to mistime a shot and the resultant top edge was pouched at midwicket. Wanindu Hasaranga entertained with a mini cameo that saw him smash Yuzvendra Chahal for successive sixes but in his attempt to fetch a third, he mistimed a shot. The chase was pretty much done and dusted by this time point as Umran added to his tally to keep chipping away. But quite stunningly, after losing their eighth wicket in the 38th over, Sri Lanka never lost another one and managed to bat out the remaining deliveries with no damage done.
Shanaka waged a lone battle with tail ender Kasun Rajitha and the duo finished with a partnership of exactly 100 off 73 balls in the end. Out of the 100, Rajitha’s contribution was just 9 as it was a one-man show in the final 10 overs. Shanaka kept finding the boundary regularly to eat into the target and looked set to bring up a hundred in the final over. But a bizarre single off the third ball threatened to spoil his party before he got the strike back for the final two deliveries, which he deposited for a four and a six to finish unbeaten on 108.
Earlier in the day, India’s top order delivered clinical performances with the bat to help them post a majestic total. Rohit and Gill got India off to a flier as seven boundaries were hit in just the first four overs of the game. That start set the tempo as the runs kept flowing with both the batters making merry.
Returning to the side after the thumb injury, Rohit was at his belligerent best and brought up a fifty with Gill following suit, vindicating the management’s decision to pick him ahead of Ishan Kishan. Dasun Shanaka then took the onus upon himself to give his side a breakthrough as he broke the opening stand of 143 by trapping Gill lbw for 70. Rohit then missed a ton as he inside-edged a delivery onto his stumps to fall for 83 but Kohli made a positive start to his innings at the other end, racing to 18 off 12.
Kohli was at his best rotating the strike consistently while the likes of Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul provided the timely boundaries at the other end. Both Iyer and Rahul made handy contributions to ensure India’s rate didn’t dip significantly post the departure of the openers. At the end of 40 overs, India were 294/3 and that entertained hopes of them surpassing 400. However, Rahul was stopped in his tracks by Rajitha for 39 and that dismissal pegged India back a touch.
Rajitha could have caused more damage had Kusal Mendis managed to hold onto the chance presented by Kohli when he edged behind after going past fifty but the keeper grassed it. Kohli was handed a reprieve again, this time by Shanaka at extra cover and the former captain made the best use of it. He got to his 73rd ton in international cricket off just 80 deliveries to put India in a dominant position. With Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel failing to fire, India couldn’t breach 400 with their long tail but 373 was more than enough on the day.