After two nearly identical victories at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, India seized the 3-0 ODI series win against Sri Lanka on Sunday night. At both venues, Sri Lanka batted first and India chased successfully to carve out two 6-wickets victories with over 30-balls remaining in both games. Both at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, India came up with a steady performance and kept Sri Lanka under pressure. Some players reached individual landmarks in these matches. While Rayudu redeemed himself with a chanceless hundred at Motera, it was the veteran Mahela Jayawardene, who showed his class with an effortless 118 off 124 balls at Hyderabad. In the process, Jayawardene reached a career landmark of 12000 runs with just four other batsmen in the world above him. Virat Kohli also achieved the distinction of being the fastest batsmen to reach 6000 runs in his 136th innings. Not to be outdone, Shikhar Dhawan became the fastest Indian to reach 2000 runs in his 48th ODI outing.
At Ahmedabad on November 6, Sri Lanka batted first after winning the toss. Kusal Perera was brought back into the side to fortify the start but he fell for a duck in the first over to Umesh Yadav. Dilshan and Sangakkara steadied the boat somewhat. Sri Lanka, however, lost Dilshan and Jayawardane and until Angelo Mathews arrived at 64/3, the batting couldn’t find the rhythm. Sri Lanka’s best batting show was the 90-run fourth wicket stand between Sangakkara and Mathews but the rate of scoring slowed down. It was more an exercise in recovering from early loss of wickets rather than moving towards setting a target for India. Sangakkara’s fifty took 73 deliveries with just three fours and although Mathews kept the score ticking, he was more intent in keeping the partnerships going. The batting power-play in the 32nd over brought more woes for Sri Lanka as Sangakkara fell in trying to force Yadav and Prasanna succumbed to the lure of the sweep. At 220/8 in 43.2 overs, Sri Lanka had only Mathews as the lone ranger. But the Sri Lanka captain found an able 9th wicket-stand man in Dhammika Prasad. The two batsmen carried the final score to 275/8, remaining unbeaten in the end. Mathews made 92 off 101 balls while Prasad contributed with 30 off 28.
As India came to chase 276, they began by losing Rahane in the seventh over with the score reading 18/1. But in came Ambati Rayudu and with Dhawan, he consolidated India’s innings as the two batsmen added 122 for the second wicket. Even after Dhawan’s departure, Rayudu continued with Virat Kohli and took India to victory. Rayudu’s chanceless 121 off 118 balls, Dhawan’s 79 off 80 and Kohli’s 49 off 44 were the knocks that ensured an easy 6-wicket victory for India.
At Hyderabad on Sunday, India faced Sri Lanka in the third ODI with a 2-0 lead in the series. In a repeat act from the last match, Sri Lanka chose to bat again after winning the toss but they were immediately in trouble. Sri Lanka lost Kusal Perera and Kumar Sangakkara very early as the score read 7/2 in 2.1 overs. But Tilakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardane played with authority afterwards, adding 105 for the third wicket, before Dilshan fell for 53. Jayawardane produced a commanding display and carried on despite his team-mates deserting him in the middle overs. Therefore, he didn’t show any joy even after reaching the 12000 run milestone in the ODIs with a masterly 118 off 124. Only Seekkuge Prasanna scored anything of some value with the Lankan innings folding for 242 in the 49th over. Akshar Patel and Umesh Yadav shared 7 Sri Lanka wickets between themselves and didn’t allow the batsmen much leeway. Patel was particularly lethal in securing a wicket, when he came on each time in power-play overs. His speed variation had a telling effect on Sri Lanka batsmen. Umesh Yadav also returned his career best figures in taking 4/53 in 9 overs.
The target of 243 was not too much for the emboldened Indian batsmen, who were untroubled from the start. Every batsman made useful contribution in a nicely paced innings that started with a 62 run opening stand. Shikhar Dhawan was the top scorer with 91 off 79 balls with 8 fours and a six. Kohli made 53, his 31st ODI fifty and also reached the fastest 6000-run mark in ODI. Dhawan, who recorded his third successive fifty, beat the fastest 2000-run ODI mark. Playing steadily, India reached the desired target with 35 balls remaining.
In a hat-trick of victories in the first three games, India clinched the series 3-0 with two games remaining. Sri Lanka needs to pull up their socks after three consecutive defeats. As per the Sri Lanka captain, while the senior players are putting their heart into the game, the younger ones need to apply themselves. With the 2015 World Cup coming up, Lanka management needs some quick rethinking on the issue.