Virat Kohli produced an absolutely jaw-dropping spectacle for Hobart fans as he smashed 133 from a meagre 86 balls to give India some hope of reaching the Commonwealth Bank series final against Australia.
Kohli’s century stole the limelight from Sri Lanka’s opener Tillakaratne Dilshan, who cracked a career best 160 runs and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkarra’s 105.
Kohli, who was awarded the Man of the Match award for his dazzling knock, was absolutely pumped by India’s victory, and said: “This is a special feeling, and this is probably my best one-day innings so far, I committed a few mistakes in the last games after getting to 20 and 30, trying to middle every ball, which doesn’t happen always in international cricket.”
Sri Lanka, who were put in to bat first by Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, attacked the Indian bowling from the get-go, with opener Dilshan pouncing on every loose delivery that was bowled to him, en route to his highest ODI score of 160, en route to Sri Lanka’s highly impressive total of 320.
Sangakkarra soon came to the party as he started to heat up and dispatch everything the Indian bowlers tried to bowl at him.
Together the pair made a 200 run partnership, a new record at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval. The previous record of 165 was between England’s Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick.
India’s Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja all had one wicket each in India’s sub-par bowling display.
India, facing a mammoth total of 321, had to reach the target in 40 overs or less to gain the bonus point, which would be the only way they would have a chance to reach the finals.
Openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendular started smashing everything from the beginning of the Indian innings as they put together a valuable partnership of 54.
When Sehwag was dismissed, Tendular was not far to follow, as he given out leg before wicket to Lasith Malinga, on what some speculators have called his final ODI appearance in his career.
With the openers back in the pavilion, Gautam Gambhir and Kohli started to pick up the pace and steady the innings. Gambhir soon reached his half century, but failed to convert it into a century, when he was run out on 63, which he had made from only 64 deliveries.
With Gambhir gone, all eyes fell on Suresh Raina, who has been having a miserable series so far with the bat. However, with India needing so many runs in little time, Raina, who seemed to look more free, since he was allowed to play his natural game, along with Kohli demolished the Sri Lankan bowling attack all over the Bellerive Oval.
In the 35th over, Kohli absolutely hammered Malinga all over the place, taking an unbelievable 24 runs off the over. Malinga, who has been under performing in this series as well, conceded over 90 runs off his bowling for the first time in his ODI career.
Kohli and Raina’s partnership was both historic and memorable because they accumulated a run rate of 13.56 in an undefeated partnership of 120, which is the highest ever in a partnership worth over 100 runs in Indian ODI cricket history.
India, managed to achieve their target in 36.4 overs, leaving spectators in awe, as they had expected India not to be able to chase down the total in 50 overs, let alone within the 40 overs they needed to, in order to gain the bonus point.
Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof were the only Sri Lankan players to a wicket, in the dismal effort to protect and defend their total.
Sri Lanka Captain, Mahela Jayawardene, was astounded with India’s win, but was looking to put the embarrassing loss behind him. “You can’t do much when they bat like that.. Virat played out of his skin on a true pitch. It was the first off day for our bowlers in the tournament, so fair enough. It wasn’t just Kohli, it was also the way the others batted around him. Our qualification is still in our hands, which is great. Hope we come back from this and win in Melbourne” he said.
Captain Dhoni, who amazingly was not needed to be India’s saviour, like he has been in the past, said: “This was some of the best ODI cricket I have been a part of. When you need 321 off 40, you need a good start. You need the quantity, but the quality … We wanted to keep them down to 250, maximum 270.. We knew we had the firepower, but still 320 was more than we could digest. But once we got that start, we knew we could kick on.”
With this victory, India can only hope that Australia defeat Sri Lanka, when the two teams battle it out on the 2nd of March at Melbourne, in order to reach the finals.