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Kohli stars as India completes series sweep

India loses way before its captain’s unbeaten 139 helps it pull off three-wicket win in final ODI against Sri Lanka

Kohli stars as India completes series sweep - Cricket News
Stuart Binny of India celebrates.
For two weeks, Angelo Mathews had seen Indian after Indian line up and take his turn at knocking the Sri Lankans down flat. On Sunday (November 16), he decided that enough was enough, and did some punching of his own, taking out as many of the misery givers as he could single-handedly.
But just like India hadn’t found a way past Mathews all series, teams coming up against Virat Kohli in a critical chase have come off second best often. Mathews paced his way to 139 not out off 116 balls to carry Sri Lanka to 286 for 8 in the fifth and final One-Day International. Kohli controlled the chase in a manner that he must have surely got a patent out for now, carrying India over the line with 1.2 overs to spare – a three-wicket win and 5-0 result in the bag.
It didn’t matter that Mathews had come back after his century to take out both Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma during his first spell and put India under severe pressure. Kohli responded by going past 1000 runs in a calendar year for the fourth straight time – not to forget the 995 runs he garnered in 2010. And to make it more even, he too finished on 139 not out, taking 126 balls to get there.
Kohli had come in to bat with India 14 for 2 in the fifth over, and the situation crying out for the proverbial captain’s innings. He didn’t need too long to get his eye in, and having assessed the situation, the bowling attack and the required run-rate, he set about on a controlled demolition mission.
That he could do so was also thanks to the excellent support provided by Ambati Rayudu, who stayed calm and composed, put away the bad balls, and continued to turn the strike over to his captain. As the partnership grew, Rayudu also began opening up more.
Kohli was the first to bring up his half-century, driving Ajantha Mendis to the cover fence with aplomb and getting to the landmark off just 48 balls in the 19th over. Rayudu brought up his half-century in even more dramatic fashion, nonchalantly upper-cutting a Lahiru Gamage bouncer over the wicketkeeper in the 26th over.
The Kohli-Rayudu stand had quickly grown to alarming proportions for Sri Lanka, which needed a moment of magic from its bowlers, or madness from the batsmen. It got the latter, when a complete communication breakdown had both batsmen at the batter’s end after the wicketkeeper had stopped Kohli’s dab. Rayudu had to run all the way back, but there was no way he was winning that race, and he trudged off for 59 off 69 and a few words of sympathy from Kohli. Without any overt risk, the two had added 136 runs in 141 balls.
There followed potential disaster for India, with each of Robin Uthappa, Kedar Jadhav – on international debut – Stuart Binny and R Ashwin falling quickly after looking set for better, with Mendis getting all four men within six overs in an extended second spell.
It was Mendis who put a spoke in India’s chasing wheel, and it was fitting that Kohli chose the same bowler for the key strikes that swung the match. With 45 needed off 28 balls, Kohli swung his bat in a full arc for maximum, and followed that with a bullet straight drive for four. In the penultimate over, two sixes off Mendis settled the issue.
Earlier, Sri Lanka’s total owed completely to how well Mathews had set the pace on the way to his maiden ODI hundred. This was the third time in the series that Mathews had crossed fifty. He got together with Lahiru Thirimanne when Sri Lanka was 85 for 4 after 18.3 overs and the duo stayed together for 26.3 overs to bring a steadying hand to a ship that had threatened to sink.
Sri Lanka’s top order had caved again, and until Mathews and Thirimanne put on 128 runs, it looked very much like one-way traffic to 5-0 for India.
Mathews and Thirimanne had also put on a century stand for the fifth wicket in the previous match in Kolkata, a feat understandably overshadowed – as was all else – by Rohit Sharma’s individual 264. In this match, without the pressure of a big total to chase, the duo could afford to take their time and settle in.
Mathews brought up his half-century with the shot of the innings, driving Karn Sharma over the extra-cover fence from his crease for what was the first six of the innings in the 40th over. Sri Lanka was 172 for 4, building steadily but unable to break free yet. However, the turning point came in the next over bowled by Rayudu.
Kohli, no doubt expecting slower bowlers to get more purchase on the pitch than the pacers, gave Rayudu one over too many. Rayudu’s offspin hadn’t been threatening in three previous overs, but in this one, Mathews teed off for 20 runs, bringing the innings to life.
Eventually, Sri Lanka plundered 114 runs from the last ten overs – Mathews contributing 86 of those from just 37 balls.
Both centurion captains authored masterclasses of contrasting kinds. Mathews was all about perfect pacing. His half-century had taken 76 balls, but he raced to his next fifty off just 26 more. He gave bowlers respect when due, picked his targets and blasted off after assessing the conditions.
Kohli’s was all about the perfectly controlled innings in a chase. When Thisara Perera had come on to bowl his first over, he strayed down the pads and Kohli flicked a thing of beauty – bisecting fine leg and square leg with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. It was a shot that spoke of the command he had over the situation.

Neither captain deserved to be on the losing side. But as has happened all series, it was Kohli who came out smiling in the captains’ face-off. On the day, it was exquisite control that triumphed over beautiful pacing.
To see the scorecard and review the India v Sri Lanka match in full, please click here

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