KINGSTON — Sri Lanka came storming back into the series with a commanding 161-run win over India at Sabina Park today.
Upul Tharanga was the star with the bat, smashing an unbeaten 174, while Mahela Jayawardene was equally impressive during a sublime 112-ball 107. On the bowling front, Rangana Herath and Sachithra Senanayake picked five wickets between them to leave India in dire straits as they slumped to their second straight defeat in the tournament.
Chasing a mammoth 349 to win, India suffered early setbacks with both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan falling cheaply. India failed to recover from the blows and were left trailing throughout the chase thereafter.
Skipper Virat Kohli only lasted five balls and India were staring down the barrel at 57 for 3 in the 16th over and in need of a miracle to save the game. When Vijay was out two overs later for a scratchy 30 off 46 balls, it was Sri Lanka’s game to lose. They ensured that there would be no such twist in the tale as they kept a tight leash on the scoring and also picked up wickets at key moments to leave the Champions Trophy winners reeling.
Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik kept the bowlers at bay long enough, but with the scoring rate steadily climbing it was only a matter of time before one of the batsmen tried to clear the ropes and presented the Sri Lankans with the chance they were patiently waiting for. That moment came in the 29th over and Angelo Mathews’ men accepted it with glee.
Karthik tried to hoick Rangana Herath out of the ground and only managed to get himself out stumped. Raina too followed Karthik soon after, run out for 33 and leaving India in further turmoil.
With the tail exposed, Sri Lanka moved quickly to try and wipe India out and give themselves the bonus point. Ravichandran Ashwin and Shami Ahmed were out in successive deliveries to Sachithra Senenayake and it was left to Ravindra Jadeja to do virtually the impossible. It turned out he couldn’t and India fell massively short.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were boosted by a terrific opening stand between Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene. With the pitch offering the bowlers enough assistance, the Sri Lankan openers adopted a conservative approach and that paid dividends as the Islanders ensured India did not enjoy any early success.
In fact, India’s newest skipper Virat Kohli was made to wait for more than 38 overs before his team tasted success and by then Sri Lanka had set the platform needed for the ideal finish.
India could have had Sri Lanka one-down much earlier, but their fielding, which has been top class of late, let them down. Jayawardene offered Murali Vijay a regulation chance at point, but the fielder, who was in the side for the injured MS Dhoni grassed the chance. India’s ground fielding too left a lot to be desired, and the Sri Lankan opening pair took full toll as they both notched up their half-centuries to take the side past the 100-run mark.
The former Sri Lankan skipper was at his glorious best; driving, cutting and flicking with panache as India were sent on a leather-hunt. His partner Tharanga was not far behind too, treating himself on some pretty ordinary bowling en route to his record-breaking knock. It wasn’t long before Jayawardene got to his hundred nudging Ishant Sharma to the leg side to reach his 16th ODI century in the 38th over.
An over later, India were celebrating for the first time in the match. Jayawardene had just dispatched Ashwin for a superb six but fell one ball later, as he reverse-swept a shot straight to Umesh Yadav. Whatever relief India gained out of the dismissal was as little as their chances of restricting Sri Lanka under 250 as Angelo Mathews and Tharanga freed their arms and had Kohli’s men and the crowd ducking for cover.
Tharanga reached his 13th ODI hundred in the next over, and from there on the floodgates opened for the Islanders. Mathews was at his fiery best, while Tharanga took his game to the next level, finding boundaries at will. Kohli could do little but stand and watch as the carnage continued. The left-hander went on to bring up his 150 as Sri Lanka crossed 300. 35 runs came off the last 2 overs and Sri Lanka ended with a colossal 348 for 1, a total that proved to be 161 runs too many for India.