Battle of the skippers

Virat Kohli…leading from the front.-PICS: K. R. DEEPAK

Both, Angelo Mathews and Virat Kohli, hit almost identical centuries, under trying conditions. But Kohli’s 21st century — fourth this year — off 126 balls and studded with 12 fours and three sixes, eased his team past Sri Lanka’s total of 286 for eight, with eight balls to spare. By S. Sabanayakan.

India proved its supremacy again in the final ODI of the Micromax Cup, as there was a classic batting duel between the two captains, Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews and India’s stand-in skipper Virat Kohli.

Both hit almost identical centuries, under trying conditions. Kohli’s 21st century — fourth this year — off 126 balls and studded with 12 fours and three sixes, eased his team past Sri Lanka’s total of 286 for eight, with eight balls to spare.

Mathews’ knock, the first ODI century at the JSCA International Stadium, was also the Sri Lankan all-rounder’s first three-figure score, and it required 10 balls less than what his Indian counterpart used up. His blistering knock, laced with 10 sixes and six fours, took his total for the year past the 1000-run mark — the first to do so in 2014. And Kohli followed suit.

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews scored his first ODI century, but it was not enough to save his team from a whitewash.-

The two centuries had different values to the respective teams. Mathews’ ton helped Sri Lanka to post its best total in the five-match series and for the first time the visiting team had a competitive total on board. Mathews’ previous highest score in ODIs was 93 against Pakistan at home in August this year, and he had come close to upstaging it in the second match of the series, as he remained unbeaten on 92 in Ahmedabad.

His innings in Ranchi rescued Sri Lanka from a parlous position of 73 for three, and the skipper, in the company of Lahiri Thirimanne produced a 128-run partnership for the fifth wicket in 26.3 overs. The Lankan captain reached his 50 in 76 balls, but cut loose thereafter, scoring the next 50 in just 26 balls. On a wicket that had uneven bounce, Mathews played some big shots against the seasoned Indian spinner R. Ashwin and also the two newcomers, Axar Patel and Karn Sharma. His 10 sixes are the most by a Sri Lankan batsman after Sanath Jayasuriya and helped the Lankans add 75 runs in the final five overs.

When Kohli came in to bat, India had lost both its openers for a paltry score of 14. A defeat loomed large, but the captain took charge in his typical aggressive style.

Ambati Rayudu shared a 136-run third-wicket stand with his captain.-

He toyed with the Lankan bowling and went past his highest score at this venue — 77 not out against England in the first-ever ODI last year. His 100 — the sixth against Sri Lanka — came off 107 balls, etched with 10 delectable boundaries.

For 24 overs, Kohli and Rayudu ruled at the JSCA Cricket Stadium with excellent stroke-play on a difficult pitch. The two frontline batsmen brought India back into the match with a third-wicket association worth 136 runs. But the unfortunate run out of Rayudu on 59 slowed India’s scoring rate.

Again uncertainty gripped the home side as it lost four quick wickets. But Kohli stood up resolutely and guided India to its 100th win (across all formats of international cricket) against the Islanders. Left-handed Axar Patel gave his skipper company to bury the Lankans. Kohli hit the most successful Sri Lankan bowler of the day, Ajantha Mendis, for a six to take his team’s score past the 250-run mark and soon hit his third six of the same bowler to secure a rare 5-0 series win.

The Indian skipper had words of encouragement for his young team and said: “It’s good as long as they keep learning from the mistakes. It was a challenging period and I’m glad to come out on top and finish the game off.”