Even as India continued to buff up their resume, Sri Lankan cricket hit a new low on Sunday (September 3).
Following the 3-0 whitewash in Tests, India rubbed salt into gaping wounds by sweeping the ailing hosts 5-0 after coasting to a six-wicket win in the fifth and final One-Day International at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
That Sri Lanka had put up their highest total in the series should have come as relief to the paltry crowd, but 238 all out in 49.4 overs was never going to be enough against India’s star-studded line-up.
Once Bhuvneshwar Kumar had picked up his maiden one-day fifer (5 for 42 from 9.4 overs) and tied Upul Tharanga’s men up in knots, Virat Kohli scripted an unbeaten 110 from 116 balls to see India to 239 for 4 from 46.3 overs on a record-filled day. Kedar Jadhav came up with a blustery 63 to aid Kohli.
The Indian skipper was a crucial cog in the run-chase with his 30th ODI century, playing a key role in consigning Sri Lanka to their first ever ODI whitewash.
Kohli’s latest three-figure score saw him draw level with Ricky Ponting’s mark of 30 ODI tons. The legendary Australian took 375 games to reach that number, Kohli has taken 194. This was Kohli’s second successive century, after his fiery 96-ball 131 at the same venue on Thursday.
As he walked off the field with MS Dhoni (1 not out) fittingly by his side, Kohli wore a wide grin. Only a few hours ago, however, the Indian skipper’s face didn’t quite sport the same emotion.
Sri Lanka finally showed some resistance, and if contributions from Tharanga, Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne were not enough of a headache, India’s fielding left Kohli fuming.
Apart from the simple catch off Malinda Pushpakumara that Shardul Thakur pushed over the ropes in the 47th over, the fielders were guilty of gifting over a dozen runs.
The rain, which had caused a 30-minute delay at the start, had made the surface a bit damp. That is why it was surprising that Tharanga decided to bat first in these conditions on winning the toss.
Tharanga, back in the XI in place of Kusal Mendis after serving a two-match ban for an over-rate offence, defied conventional wisdom and laid the foundation for what promised to be a 250-plus score with a fine 48. Sri Lanka’s hopes grew after Mathews and Thirimanne added 122 for the fourth wicket,, making 55 and 67 respectively.
But even the highest partnership for Sri Lanka for any wicket in this series could not help them to a defendable total. While poor shot-making was one part of the problem, trying to get the better of India’s bowling was an even tougher proposition.
With Bhuvneshwar back in the XI — the grey skies could have had something to do the selection — India played three frontline pacemen with Shardul Thakur and Jasprit Bumrah as the other two. Bhuvneshwar’s inclusion ahead of Hardik Pandya was just one of four changes India made for this game.
Ajinkya Rahane came in for Shikhar Dhawan, after the opener flew back to India to be with his ailing mother earlier in the day. Kedar Jadhav and Yuzvendra Chahal made it in place of KL Rahul and Axar Patel respectively.
India started well with Bhuvneshwar accounting for Niroshan Dickwella (2) and Dilshan Munaweera (4), both with knuckle balls, but Tharanga stood his ground.
Tharanga’s stay promised aplenty, and he took a particular liking to Thakur, smashing seven of his nine boundaries off the Mumbai bowler.
Even when Bumrah came into the attack in the tenth over, Tharanga was not perturbed, welcoming the paceman with a graceful pull to the fence in front of square. But then a corker of a delivery from Bumrah, who would eventually go on to finish with two wickets and the record for the most wickets by a pacer (15) in a five-match bilateral ODI series, undid Tharanga’s poise the very next ball.
Bowling from over the wicket, Bumrah’s awkward angle squared Tharanga up as the batsman looked to play through midwicket. All he managed was a faint nick to Dhoni. Tharanga had scored 48 of the 63 runs Sri Lanka had on the board.
But once Mathews and Thirimmane got together, there was reason to believe that common sense and clever batting would take them to a big total.
Even when Thirimanne became Bhuvneshwar’s third victim as the left-hand batsman dragged a cramping length delivery onto the stumps in the 39th over, all was not lost.
But when Mathews played an ill-advised paddle sweep against Kuldeep Yadav to get out in the 42nd over, the pendulum swung India’s way and it stayed there. Wanindu Hasaranga’s run-out only added to the drama. Attempting a suicidal run after an inside-edge dribbled not far from Dhoni, Hasaranga would have hoped that the wicketkeeper’s throw would not be accurate. Hasaranga took on Dhoni and lost.
Dhoni was already having a good day at the office but it was about to get better for the former skipper. In the 45th over, Chahal drew Akila Dananjaya out of the crease and managed to creep the ball under the batsman’s swinging blade. Dhoni coolly gathered and clipped the bails, thus becoming became the first ’keeper with 100 ODI stumpings.
From there on, Dhoni had sat back and watched another of Sri Lanka’s collapses. From 194 for 5, the hosts lost their last five wickets for the addition of just 44 runs.
India lost Rahane to a loose pull off Lasith Malinga in the fifth over, but Kohli immediately took control of the situation even though he soon lost Rohit Sharma. The opener premeditated a scoop shot from outside off against Vishwa Fernando, the left-arm paceman, and was brilliantly caught at short fine-leg by a leaping Pushpakumara.
Kohli and Manish Pandey then added 99 runs for the third wicket, the skipper dominating the proceedings with pinpoint precision in strokeplay. At 128 for 2, all Pandey had to do was rotate the strike. Instead, he played an ugly slog-sweep and top-edged to midwicket, giving Pushpakumara his maiden ODI wicket.
Kohli and Jadhav put on 109 for the fourth wicket to systematically dismantle Sri Lanka’s hopes. Kohli’s 19th century merely formalised what was totally one-way traffic.