A sensational unbeaten century from Virat Kohli along with meaningful contributions from other batsmen helped India to pull off an impossible 7-wicket victory with a bonus point against Sri Lanka to stay in the race for the Finals. India stunningly chased down a tall target of 321 in just 36.4 overs to win the 11th match of the CB Series at the Belerive Oval in Hobart. They have earned a bonus point as well that makes them stay alive for a berth in the Finals. However, India will only go through to the Finals if Sri Lanka loses their last league match against hosts Australia on March 2nd.
India’s run chase of 321 which was needed to be done in 40 overs to secure a bonus point started under bizarre light conditions. A power breakdown at the Bellerive Oval saw one of the floodlights not turning on and despite that Match Referee Chris Broad decided to start the Indian innings hoping that the issue would be fixed before the natural light deteriorated. Things went as per plan for Chris Broad and there was hardly any time lost in the game. India in that twilight period got off to a sensational start from the struggling Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar who wasted little time in going after the Sri Lankan new ball bowlers!
The opening pair smashed 54 on the board in 6.2 overs before Virender Sehwag (30 from 16 balls with 5 fours and a six) disappointingly got caught by the diving Tillakaratne Dilshan at mid on after miscuing a pull off Farveez Maharoof. Tendulkar who was playing his best cricket of the tour flattered to deceive as he got out for 39 (from 30 balls with 5 fours), lbw to a Lasith Malinga yorker while trying to shuffle far too across his stumps for a flick shot behind square and getting hit on the pad low. When Tendulkar got out, India was at 86 for 2 in 9.2 overs.
By the completion of the first mandatory batting powerplay, India had put up 97 runs on the board in just 10 overs! The next pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli steadied things after that taking most of their runs in singles. The two batsmen ensured that Sri Lanka weren’t getting back strongly in the game by making further inroads and at the same time maintained a nice tempo. Both batsmen helped themselves to half centuries to keep India’s hopes alive in the middle overs.
Sri Lanka could break the third wicket partnership only in the 28th over when Gautam Gambhir got run out when he was trying to complete a second run for his partner Virat Kohli to a shot played through mid wicket. Gambhir without taking many risks contributed a busy 63 (from 64 balls with 4 fours) in a solid partnership of 115 runs in 18.1 overs. At 201 for 3, Suresh Raina joined Virat Kohli as India headed towards the climax of the match. The equation for the last 10 overs for India to stay alive in the tournament was 91 runs from 60 balls! India had the luxury of having a half of the bowling powerplay and the batting powerplay at its disposal to get those runs.
Virat Kohli provided early momentum for India in the last 10 overs by taking Nuwan Kulasekara for a hat-trick of boundaries. Kulasekara who bowled the 31st over went for as many as 18 runs! After sometime, it was an amazing six struck by Suresh Raina over backward squareleg off Thisara Perera which brought the equation down to a manageable 42 runs from 36 balls by the completion of the 34th over.
Virat Kohli who brought up his 9th ODI century (from 76 balls) in the 35th over went onto smash a six and four boundaries off Lasith Malinga in the same over to accelerate India towards an easy win. Virat Kohli wrapped up the match in the 37th over taking Lasith Malinga for two consecutive boundaries! Kohli remained unbeaten on a superb 133* from just 86 balls with 16 fours and 2 sixes which got him the Man of the Match award. Suresh Raina played his best knock of the Series with a crucial unbeaten 40 from 24 balls with 3 fours and a six to help India win the match by as many as 80 balls to spare!
It was a shocking day for Yorker King – Lasith Malinga as he was taken for the cleaners with figures of 7.4-0-96-1! Nuwan Kulasekara also received rough treatment going for 71 runs in 8 overs as the Sri Lanka simply failed to stop Virat Kohli and the other Indian batsmen from the run riot. (Also read : Dilshan, Sangakara pound centuries as Sri Lanka bats out India from the CB Series)