Virat Kohli blasted an unbeaten 133 as India snatched an incredible victory against Sri Lanka by chasing down a mammoth 321 in only 36.4 overs to rekindle their hopes of making it to the final of the cricket tri-series, at Hobart on Tuesday.
Needing to win the crucial game in 40 overs in order to get a bonus point and stay afloat, the beleaguered Indians pulled off a sensational victory when it mattered the most riding on Kohli’s breathtaking assault and useful contributions from all the other top-order batsmen.
Put into bat, Sri Lanka posted a mammoth 320 built around Tillekaratne Dilshan’s career-best 160 not out and Kumar Sangakkara’s 105 but Indians left the islanders stunned by achieving the target with 80 balls to spare amd more importanly inside the required 40 overs.
They maintained an unbelievable run-rate of 8.75 runs per over throughout the chase. Kohli smashed 16 boundaries and two sixes during his whirlwind 86-ball knock.He completed his ninth ODI ton and his second against Sri Lanka in 76 balls.
India will now have to await the result of the last league match between Australia and Sri Lanka to know their fate.
They will qualify to the finals only if Australia beat Sri Lanka in the last league game.
Australia, who are already through to the finals are leading the table with 19 points while Sri Lanka and India are tied on 15 points with the latter haviung completed their league engagements.
Much as Kohli deserves to be applauded, no less critical roles were played by openers Virender Sehwag (30, 16 balls, 5×4, 1×6) and Sachin Tendulkar (39, 30 balls, 5×4) as well as the two subsequent batsmen, Gautam Gambhir (63, 64 balls, 4×4) and Suresh Raina (40, 24 balls, 3×4, 1×6).
Kohli shared two century stands – 115 runs off 109 balls with Gambhir and then of 120 from only 55 balls with Raina.
India always kept themselves in tune with the required run-rate of eight per over, reaching 160/2 in 20 overs; being 230/3 in the 30th over and the final 91 runs came off only 40 balls.
Sehwag and Tendulkar began belligerently and 50 runs came in the first six overs itself.
The floodgates opened in the second over from Kulasekara when Sehwag lofted him over mid-off.
Sehwag then square drove the medium-pacer and didn’t spare Lasith Malinga either. Twice bludgeoning him past midwicket and once lofting him over square leg for a six.
Tendulkar wasn’t a slouch either. He twice square drove Kulasekara to fence and once smashing Malinga through covers.
The introduction of Ferveez Maharoof cost India their first wicket. Sehwag once pulled him over mid-on for four but in trying to do an encore, he was caught by Dilshan for 30 runs.
Sehwag faced only 16 balls and faced five fours and a six.
Tendulkar, at the other end, still looked to attack, lofting Maharoof and Malinga for a four each. But in order to glide a stump-delivery from Malinga past fine leg, he was adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Simon Taufel.
With a licence to go for their shots, Gautam Gambhir too lost little time in attacking the bowlers. He slashed Kulasekara past point and then walked out to lift him between mid-on and midwicket. He once edged Malinga between slips for four as the 100 of the innings was up in the 11th over.
The next few overs were one of consolidation. Gambhir and Kohli rotated the strikes at will and there were a few boundary hits to go with it.
Sri Lanka delayed the bowling Powerplay but India’s run-rate was unaffected. The 150 of the innings came in the 19th over with a massive six over mid-off by Kohli against Angelo Mathews.
India was 160 for 2 after 20 overs, requiring exactly the same equation in the final 20 overs.
Gambhir soon completed his half century off 47 balls with five fours. Kohli completed his own in the next over, made off 44 balls with three fours and a six.
The century stand between the two came in the 25th over. India now needed 131 runs from 15 overs, to claim the bonus point. The batting Powerplay was claimed in the 28th over, India being 199 for 2 at this stage.
India lost Gambhir at this stage, run out for 63 off 64 balls with four fours. India’s scoring had dropped between 25th and 29th over when only 24 runs came from four overs.
The 30th over, bowled by Lasith Malinga, again brought a spurt in scoring. Fifteen runs came off this over and India now needed 91 runs from the final 10 overs with seven wickets in hand.
Next over from Kulasekara yielded 18 runs, including four fours, and India were now sprinting towards victory with bonus point. The bowling Powerplay yielded 58 runs.
Now aware that the momentum was with them, India opted for batting Powerplay in the 33rd over, as soon as the bowling Powerplay ended. The match was as good as over when Malinga conceded 24 runs in the 35th over, bringing down the equation to only 18 runs from next 30 balls.
Earlier, Dilshan equalled his career-best score with an unbeaten 160, his 11th century in his 230th ODI and first in a year, while Sangakkara made a quickfire 105 to register the 13th century of his career.
Sent into bat, Dilshan anchored Sri Lanka’s innings and hit 11 fours and three huge sixes during his 165-ball unbeaten stay.
Sangakkara, on the other hand, was at his destructive best, piling up his 105 runs off just 87 balls with eight boundaries and two huge hits over the fence.
Dilshan and Sangakkara got together after the 12th over and maneuvered the score till the 44th over, putting together exactly 200 runs for the second wicket, the biggest stand of the series so far.
In with an outside chance to book a place in the best of three final of the series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had no hestitation in bowling first after winning the toss, as India needed to chase down Sri Lanka’s target inside 40 overs to avail a bonus point and stay afloat in the competition.
The Lankans got off to a decent start with captain Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan putting together 49 runs for the first wicket before the former was holed out by Virender Sehwag in the slip off Ravindra Jadeja.
The dismissal forced Dilshan and new man Sangakkara to slow down as they raised their scores mostly in ones and twos with occasional hits in between to raise up the team’s 100 in the 22nd over.