Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir slammed centuries to take India to a convincing seven-wicket victory against Sri Lanka in the fourth One-Day International at the Eden Gardens, in Kolkata on Thursday.
Gambhir was unbeaten on a splendid innings of 150 to take India to 317 for three in 48.1 overs in reply to Sri Lanka's 315 for six. Dinesh Karthik finished unbeaten on 19 from 22 deliveries as India clinched the five-match series 3-1, their fifth consecutive ODI series win over Sri Lanka, with a game to spare.
Gambhir played the anchor role to perfection as he hit 14 boundaries in his 137-ball knock to rescue India after the openers were dismissed cheaply.
He got good support from his Delhi team-mate Kohli, who registered his first hundred in one-dayers. Kohli played a fine innings of 107 from 114 deliveries, inclusive of 11 boundaries and a six, before he was caught at long-on off Suraj Randiv. The two batsmen started with an attacking approach before settling down in the middle overs as they added 224 runs in 35.4 overs for the third wicket.
Pacer Suranga Lakmal had rocked India early with the wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar in consecutive overs.
Sehwag hit two boundaries for 10 before he was caught at point off Lakmal in the second over of the innings. In his next over, the 22-year-old claimed the wicket of Tendulkar for 8, who was caught at covers by Suraj Randiv as India were reduced to 28 for two after four overs.
Earlier, Upul Tharanga hit a century to help Sri Lanka post a mammoth 315 for six in their 50 overs, the highest total in ODIs at this venue before it was upstaged by the Indians.
Tharanga continued his good run with the bat as he made 118 from 128 deliveries, having hit 14 boundaries and two sixes, before he was bowled by Zaheer Khan. The Sri Lanka opener had provided Sri Lanka with a solid platform as he added 126 runs in 23.4 overs for the third wicket with Kumar Sangakkara, who made a brisk 60 from 72 deliveries.Sri Lanka:
Ashish Nehra nearly picked up a wicket with his first delivery of the match when he beat Upul Tharanga with a perfect outswinging delivery. Unlike the previous three matches of the series, Sri Lanka openers were quiet at the start as Nehra started with a maiden and Zaheer Khan also stuck on a good line and length keeping both Dilshan and Tharanga quiet.
Unlike the previous matches, both Tillakaratne Dilshan (4 from 12 deliveries) and Upul Tharanga (3 from 18 deliveries) found the going tough as Sri Lanka were restricted to nine for no loss after five overs.
Dilshan broke the shackles when he smashed a short delivery from Nehra through the covers for a boundary in the sixth over. In the same over, Tharanga struggling on 3 from 19 deliveries, lofted Nehra over mid-on for his first boundary. The very next delivery he got a lifeline on 7 when Nehra dropped a difficult return catch and Tharanga rubbed salt on his wounds when he hit the next delivery for the third boundary of the over to take Sri Lanka to 22 for no loss after six overs.
Tharanga continued to attack Nehra when he pulled a short delivery over square leg for the first six of the innings. However, it was Nehra who gave India the first breakthrough when he claimed the wicket of Dilshan. The in-form Dilshan, who has hit two centuries in the series so far, failed to get going as he made nine from 19 deliveries. His frustration finally gave way when he pulled a short delivery from Nehra and was brilliantly taken by Virat Kohli at square leg diving forward. (31-1, 8)
With the opener struggling to get going, Sri Lanka took a gamble by promoting the experienced Sanath Jayasuriya to number three.
Jayasuriya got off the mark in style when he flicked a full delivery from Nehra through fine leg for a boundary and followed it up with another sweetly timed boundary through the covers to take Sri Lanka to 45 for one after ten overs.
All the good work done by Zaheer and Nehra upfront was then undone by Ishant Sharma, who once again struggled with the new ball. Tharanga punished Ishant by smashing five boundaries off his first over as time and again the Delhi pacer bowled either short or wide to concede 20 runs in his opening over to give the Sri Lankan innings much needed momentum.
Jayasuriya then joined in the party when he lofted Zaheer over the mid-off fielder for a boundary as Sri Lanka started to make up for their slow start.
However, the decision to give Zaheer that extra over, his seventh in a row, paid off when the left-armer got the wicket of Jayasuriya caught at first slip for 15 off as many deliveries. (72-2, 12.5)
India's fielding woes though continued when Harbhajan Singh dropped the easiest of catches at third man. Kumar Sangakkara (0) tried to pull a short delivery from Ishant, but got a leading edge which went on the off-side but Harbhajan running in from the boundary failed to get under the ball and dropped an easy opportunity in the 14th over.
Tharanga brought up his half-century, his third of the series, off 45 deliveries in some style when he drove Ishant through the covers for a boundary.
Ishant continued to suffer against Tharanga as the left-hander hit him for two successive boundaries to take Sri Lanka to 116 for two after 20 overs. The Delhi pacer looked totally clueless as he went for 44 runs in his five overs, with Tharanga hitting him for as many as eight boundaries for 36 runs in the 16 deliveries he had faced.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who took four wickets in the last match, started off well with a maiden over against the high flying Tharanga in the 22nd over.
The spinners, Harbhajan and Jadeja, managed to exert some control on the scoring rate as they conceded just 35 runs in the ten overs bowled between them with Sri Lanka reaching 144 for two after 28 overs.
Tharanga slammed Virender Sehwag straight down the ground for a boundary, his 14th of the innings, to move into the 90s. Sangakkara got his second boundary of the innings when he cut a short delivery from Jadeja through the point region to take Sri Lanka to 161 for two after 30 overs.
Ishant's nightmare continued when he came back for his second spell in the 32nd over. Sangakkara welcomed him with back-to-back boundaries as yet again Ishant drifted on the pads and wide on the off-stump respectively.
Tharanga brought up his century, his first in three years, off 102 deliveries with a single in the 34th over by Suresh Raina.
Just when it looked Sri Lanka were running away towards a big total, Harbhajan struck with the vital wicket of Sangakkara for 60. The left-hander shuffled across his stumps and tried to play the paddle sweep but missed the ball completely and was stumped by wicketkeeper Karthik. The Sri Lankan captain had provided Sri Lanka with a solid platform as he added 126 runs in 23.4 overs for the third wicket with Tharanga, who looked set to bat till the end. (198-3, 36.3)
With the scoreboard reading 217 for three after 40 overs, Sri Lanka decided to take the Batting Powerplay. Mahela Jayawardene looked to make most of the fielding restrictions as hit Harbhajan for consecutive boundaries in the 41st over.
Tharanga also took advantage of the situation as he slog swept Jadeja for his second six, through the midwicket region in the next over.
Zaheer returned for his second spell and immediately he claimed the big wicket of Tharanga for 118. The left-hander hit 14 boundaries and two sixes in his 128-ball knock before inside edging a full delivery back onto his stumps. (234-4, 42.1)
Debutant Thissara Perera looked to attack right from the start as he pulled a short delivery from Zaheer for a boundary off the third ball he faced. The left-hander then punished Jadeja with two more boundaries in the next over and Jayawardene lofted one over the covers for the third boundary of the over to take Sri Lanka to 256 for four after 44 overs.
Perera showed his prowess with the bat when he slammed a short delivery from Zaheer over midwicket for a six to race to 23 from just 10 deliveries. In the same he flicked a full delivery from the left-arm pacer over midwicket yet again for a boundary as Sri Lanka reached 271 for four after 45 overs.
The Batting Powerplay went to script for the visitors as they hammered 54 runs in five overs, while losing just one wicket.
Perera's cameo innings of 31 from 14 deliveries, inclusive of four boundaries and a six, came to an end when his attempted loft down the ground was neatly taken by Jadeja at long-on off Nehra. (271-5, 45.1)
Jayawardene seemed to have found some form back and continued to attack the bowlers. He slicked a wide delivery from Zaheer through the covers which evaded a diving Tendulkar for a boundary in the 47th over.
He, however, fell in the next over when he was run out by Nehra as he attempted a tight single after a quick 33 from 30 deliveries, inclusive of five boundaries. (287-6, 47.2)
Ishant was brought back for his third spell in the 49th over and even then he was smashed around. This time it was Thilina Kandamby, who hit for two more boundaries, as the young pacer's figures read a sorry 67 runs in seven overs.
The play was halted for nearly 20 minutes in the final over when two of the floodlight towers went off, with just four deliveries left in the innings. Thilan Samaraweera hit a boundary off the first delivery after the restart to help Sri Lanka finish on 315 for six in their 50 overs, the highest total at this venue in ODIs.
Kandamby hit a quick 23 from 15 deliveries, inclusive of four boundaries, to ensure Sri Lanka progressed well in the slog overs.
The time lost due to the power failure meant Indian batsmen were left with a short break as they faced a stiff target.
Zaheer brought all his experience into play as he stifled the batsmen at the start for impressive figures of two for 49 in ten overs. Nehra (2 for 68 in nine overs) and Harbhajan (1 for 53 in ten overs) also made good contributions but Ishant let the Sri Lankans off the hook as he gave away 67 runs in seven overs.
Virender Sehwag took no time to get going as he started with a boundary through covers off debutant Thissara Perera off the first ball of the innings. Four deliveries later, he flicked one through midwicket for the second boundary of the over as Perera suffered in his very first over in international cricket.
However, Suranga Lakmal provided Sri Lanka with the early breakthrough when he claimed the wicket of Sehwag for 10. The India captain tried to cut a short delivery outside the off-stump but the extra bounce meant that he hit it straight to Dilshan at point. (13-1, 1.4)
Sachin Tendulkar also got off the mark in style when he flicked a full delivery from Perera through midwicket in the third over. The veteran batsman got his second boundary in the next over when he flicked one on the pads through the square leg.
However, it was Lakmal who had the last laugh when he got the prized wicket of Tendulkar for 8. The right-hander also fell to a similar shot like Sehwag as he attempted the cut but was taken by Suraj Randiv at cover to leave India reeling. (23-2, 3.4)
Gautam Gambhir continued the trend of Indian batsmen opening their accounts with boundaries when he drove Perera straight down the ground to take India to 37 for two after five overs.
Virat Kohli also started off with a boundary and followed that up with one more in the next over as India reached 54 for two after eight overs.
Lasith Malinga suffered rough treatment in his very first over when Kohli slammed him for four boundaries in a row as the pacer sprayed the ball all around. Gambhir also looked to lift the scoring from the other end when he flicked Lakmal through midwicket for his third boundary to bring up the 50-run partnership in just 34 deliveries and take India to 74 for two after ten overs.
With the two Delhi batsmen looking to attack at every opportunity, Sri Lanka didn't take the Bowling Powerplay at the end of the 10th over, but then took it an over later.
Sri Lanka managed to stop the flow of boundaries for a few overs before Gambhir broke the shackles when he flicked Malinga through square leg for a boundary as India progressed to 98 for two after 15 overs.
Kohli cruised to his half-century off 52 deliveries, with a single on the off-side in the 19th over bowled by Sanath Jayasuriya. In the same over, the two Delhi batsmen also brought up their 100-run partnership from 89 deliveries for the third wicket to keep India in the hunt in their run chase.
The dew was coming into play now and spinners Suraj Randiv and Sanath Jayasuriya were seen wiping the ball thoroughly before bowling every delivery. With the temperature dipping steadily, the haze was also taking effect as a thick cover of smoke seemed to have settled over the ground but India had no problems as they were comfortably placed at 159 for two in 25 overs.
Even though Sri Lanka managed to stop the boundaries for a few overs, the two Indian batsmen didn't panick. Kohli found the much needed boundary after a gap of few overs when he pulled a short delivery from Jayasuriya through midwicket in the 27th over. In the next over, the duo brought their 150-run partnership off just 142 deliveries as India continued to build on.
Kohli then smashed debutant Perera through the covers for his 10th boundary and move to 79, his highest score in one-dayers. Both Gambhir and Kohli had no trouble in milking the ball around for singles and twos as India reached 190 for two after 30 overs, needing 126 from the last 20 overs.
To Sri Lanka's dismay, Kohli got a lifeline when he was dropped on 88 by Sangakkara as he attempted to play the cut shot against Dilshan in the 34th over.
With the new ball taken after 34 overs, Sri Lanka brought on veteran spinner Jayasuriya, who was immediately hit through midwicket by Kohli as he dropped short.
India were comfortably placed at 218 for two after 35 overs, needing 98 from the remaining 15 overs.
Gambhir joined his Delhi team-mate in the 90s when he cut a short delivery from Dilshan through the point region in the 36th over.
Kohli was the first to get to the three figure mark, his first in one-dayers, off 110 deliveries with a single on the long-on region off Gambhir in the 38th over. The very next delivery, Gambhir completed his seventh ODI century off 101 deliveries with a single on the off-side as the Eden crowd celebrated with a standing ovation.
With the century under his belt, Kohli tried to break free as he flicked Perera for the first six of the innings in the 39th over.
He, however, fell in the next over when he was caught on the long-on boundary attempting another big shot off Randiv. The youngster had played a fine innings of 107, having hit 11 boundaries and a six in his 114-ball knock to rescue India after a couple of early wickets. The Kohli-Gambhir partnership had put on a record 224 runs in 35.4 overs for the third wicket to give India complete control. (247-3, 39.2)
India opted not to take the Batting Powerplay and not without reason as Gambhir continued to get boundaries at will. The left-hander hit the inexperienced Perera for two boundaries in his ninth over to take India to 260 for three after 41 overs, needing 56 from the last nine overs.
Gambhir was determined to stay till the end and didn't take unnecessary risks. But when the bowlers erred he was quick to pounce as he did in the 43rd over when he hit Lakmal for two boundaries to bring the equation down to 40 needed from the last seven overs.
With India looking set for a victory at 280 for three in 44 overs, the hosts decided to take the Batting Powerplay and exploit the fielding restrictions.
The first over of the Powerplay turned out to be a productive one as 13 runs came off Malinga's over, including a boundary for Gambhir through fine leg. In Malinga's next over, Gambhir brought up his 3000 runs in ODIs at a healthy average of 40 and most of those runs had come in the last couple of seasons when the left-hander had dominated with the bat.
It was appropriate that Gambhir hit the winning runs when he drove Malinga through the off-side for a boundary. The Delhi left-hander finished unbeaten on a splendid innings of 150, laced with 14 boundaries in his 137-ball knock, to take India to a convincing seven-wicket victory and clinch the five-match series 3-1.
Dinesh Karthik finished unbeaten on 19 from 22 deliveries (1 boundary) to stay unconquered in a successful run chase for the second match in a row.
Sri Lanka's inexperience with the ball showed as India comfortably cruised to 317 for three in 48.1 overs despite Sehwag and Tendulkar falling cheaply within the first four overs.
And to India's credit they managed to triumph despite missing regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and batting mainstay Yuvraj Singh. India continue their domination over Sri Lanka in ODIs, having registered their fifth series in a row over the islanders.
As was witnessed in the Test series, the Indian team fired when it really mattered while Sri Lanka were found wanting at crucial junctures with both bat and ball.
The two teams now clash in the inconsequential fifth and final one-dayer