Kohli century; Rohit, Gill fifties power India to 67-run victory over Sri Lanka

Guwahati: Virat Kohli’s 45th ODI century and captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill fifties powered India to a 67-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first game and 1-0 lead in the three-match series at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, here on Tuesday.

An opening stand of 143 between Gill, who made 70 off 60 and Rohit, who smashed 83 off 67 balls, put India into ascendancy early and set the tone for a big total. Then Kohli smacked his second consecutive ODI century, 113 off 87 balls, making the most out of two reprieves while hitting 12 fours and a six for India to make an improbable 373/7.

In reply, Sri Lanka made 306/8, with Shanaka’s 88-ball 102 coming too late after opener Pathum Nissanka made 72 off 80 balls. Young tearaway pacer Umran Malik picked figures of 3/57, while Mohammed Siraj scalped an impressive 2/30. Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Hardik Pandya had a wicket each as the hosts’ now have 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

On a flat pitch with a lightning fast outfield, Kohli was initially watchful. He then got his first two boundaries by stylishly driving off his wrists against Shanaka and when Wanindu Hasaranga dropped short, he was quick to go on backfoot and whipped through mid-wicket for a brace of boundaries.

He had some serious timing in his drives, like driving on a length ball outside the off-stump off debutant Dilshan Madushanka run through the fast outfield for a boundary. He was magical in whips off wrists, like the one which went over mid-wicket for six and got him his fifty.

Kohli was in imperious touch, picking slower deliveries with ease and ramping short balls over keeper’s head while maintaining the balance between front foot and back foot strokeplay and earned reprieves when his catches were dropped on 52 and 81.

Soon, he got his second hundred at the venue off 80 balls, punching the air in delight and getting a roaring applause from the crowd. After picking two more boundaries, Kohli fell when his slog-sweep off Kasun Rajitha brought out a top-edge and was caught by the keeper, bringing an end to a spectacular knock.

Pushed into batting first, Rohit got going for India with a silken drive through mid-off for four off Kasun Rajitha in the opening over. From there, it was a boundary hitting show from Rohit and Gill, showcasing their full array of shots in an attractive display of stroke play in the power-play.

The most delightful of them was Gill cutting twice and slicing off Madushanka for a hat-trick of fours while Rohit was assured in his pulls off Rajitha as India got 75 off power-play. Rohit also survived two DRS calls on lbws before reaching his 47th ODI fifty with a sweep through backward square leg for four off leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.

Gill also survived an lbw review on umpire’s call before bringing up his fifth half-century in 16 ODI innings off 51 balls. He did another hat-trick of boundaries when he whipped twice and brought out the drive once against left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage, before Rohit smacked a six over the bowler’s head.

The opening partnership ended when Gill was beaten on the flick and was trapped lbw by Shanaka. Four overs later, Rohit got a big inside edge off Madushanka and saw his off-stump being uprooted.

Shreyas Iyer upped the ante with quick boundaries, but mistimed the sweep to backward square leg off Dhananjaya de Silva. KL Rahul was productive in his 29-ball 39 before seeing his leg-stump being smashed off Rajitha.

Hardik and Axar Patel couldn’t do much with the bat as 17 runs came off the last three overs. But efforts of Kohli, Rohit, and Gill ensured India posted a large total as top six batters batted with a strike-rate above 100.

Chasing 374, Nissanka got going with three boundaries off Shami. But Siraj helped India bounce back with his immaculate line and length — forcing Avishka Fernando to miscue a leading edge to mid-off and then castling Kusal Mendis through the gate with a sharp nip-backer.

Nissanka was involved in a brief 41-run stand with Charith Asalanka, before Umran had the latter gloving behind to keeper, though replays later showed there was no bat involved. Nissanka continued to drive and sweep with ease while de Silva took time before driving, lofting and sweeping effortlessly.

The 72-run partnership ended when Shami got a length ball to swerve away and forced the latter to nick behind without any footwork, falling for 47. Six overs later, Nissanka’s fighting knock came to an end when he mistimed a pull to mid-wicket off Umran.

Hasaranga smacked Chahal for a brace of sixes over mid-wicket and lofted over cover for four. But the leg-spinner had the last laugh, as the right-handed batter holed out to deep mid-wicket. In the next over, Umran had Wellalage caught at first slip for a golden duck and fastened Sri Lanka’s crumbling.

Chamika Karunaratne fell to Hardik while trying to loft off him and hit straight to mid-on. Shanaka was waging a valiant battle for Sri Lanka, lofting uppishly while slamming and timing the ball hard to get boundaries and get his fifty in as many balls.

He continued to drive, loft, pull, and slash on the up before getting his century in 87 balls with a cover drive off Shami in the final over, after Rohit withdrew the appeal of his run-out from non-striker’s end when he was at 98.

Shanaka finished off the innings with a six over deep mid-wicket to bring the century of his partnership in 73 balls with Rajitha as well as the side’s 300. But it was insufficient for Sri Lanka to avoid a loss in the series opener.

Brief Scores: India 373/7 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 113, Rohit Sharma 83; Kasun Rajitha 3/88, Dasun Shanaka 1/22) beat Sri Lanka 306/8 in 50 overs (Dasun Shanaka 108 not out, Pathum Nissanka 72; Umran Malik 3/57, Mohammed Siraj 2/30) by 67 runs

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