India 390/5 (Kohli 166*, Gill 116, Rajita 2-81, Kumara 2-87) Sri Lanka 97 (Siraj 4-32, Kuldeep 2-16) beat by 317 runs
The change in circumstances was dramatic, but the difference in the quality of the two sides was no small. India chose to bat first to challenge themselves to set an above-par total and then defend it in dewy conditions. As it turned out, the match hardly lasted long enough for dew to become a factor, with Sri Lanka being bowled out in 22 overs.
The victory, however, was set up with the bat. Rohit Sharma and Gill got India off to a brisk start before Kohli took charge. Gill was dismissed in the 34th over after scoring 116 runs off 97 balls; Kohli scored an unbeaten 166 off 110 balls. These were two contrasting centuries. If there was pace in both innings, Gill was a cricketer: explosive power interspersed with almost passivity. Kohli was a middle-distance runner: a regular, rhythmic mid-to-high heartbeat maintained efficiently without any jitters and puffs. In the home stretch, he turned into a sprinter.
India scored only one run in their first three overs with the bat, which suggested that the batsmen needed to get used to the slow surface, but once they got going, they came down hard. Sri Lanka’s bowling appeared to lack depth, which meant that the batsmen could not work hard against Wanindu Hasaranga.
Gill and Rohit scored quick runs. After a slow start, Gill followed up Rohit’s six in the sixth over with four consecutive boundaries bowled by Lahiru Kumara. After this, Rohit’s two sixes and a four, thrown by Kasun Rajitha in the 10th over, disturbed the peace for some time.
Then immediately after the powerplay five overs went by without a boundary. Rohit then tried to make one in the 16th over by pulling a shortish ball in the air, and was caught at deep backward square leg due to lack of pace and bounce in the pitch.
Kohli walks in and covers-drives the second ball for four. In his second over on the wicket, Kohli gave a one-two to legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay, cover-driving him for four runs before going back to a late-cut off the next ball which was predictably flatter.
Gill, who had gone from 5 for 35 off 14 balls to 52 off 28 balls, then opened with a short arm slog-sweep six over Vandersay. He took 34 balls to get to the 48 runs he needed for his hundred, while Kohli settled into an enhanced version of an already skilful anchor: he was scoring more than a run a ball without taking any risks.
After completing his century, Gill tried to switch into a higher gear in the last nine overs of the second powerplay, hitting Vandersay for three fours in the 32nd before losing to the low bounce of a Rajita slower ball in the 33rd. ,
Kohli made 58 off 56 balls without taking any chances and gradually propelled himself a bit to reach 82 off 76 balls by the end of the 40th over. It was evident from the way Shreyas Iyer was struggling for timing that the pitch had slowed down even more and scoring runs had become more difficult.
In the last 10 overs, Sri Lanka’s fielding turned to water. It started with Vandersay running over long on and legging by Kohli mishit. Kohli accepted his luck there, which was also an acknowledgment of his bad luck in the last three years. Then there was an ugly clash between Ashen Bandara and Vandersay as they converged on a ground shot from Kohli.
Kohli more than doubled his score in the last 10 overs, scoring 84 off the last 34 balls as he didn’t contribute much from the other end. India scored 116 in the last 10 overs.
Bandara was about to miss the chase due to his injury, and Vandersay took advantage of a concussion substitute in Dunith Velagage. A batsman short, Sri Lanka’s task was always going to be tough, but a hot Siraj made it impossible.
Siraj is using the outswinger more these days while the ball is still swinging, and has become less dependent on his favorite toy, the wobble-seam inducer. As it turned out, the ball kept swinging. A wide slip took a catch, then came a second slip, then a third, and suddenly it looked like India were on course for a Test win last evening.
Avishka Fernando and Kusal Mendis fell to classic outswingers, Nuwanidu Fernando inside-edged a wide outswinger, and Hasaranga found a wobbly seam delivery, bordering to hit the top.
Shami was looking no less dangerous, and the pressure created resulted in two soft dismissals against him. Kuldeep bowled Dasun Shanaka through the gate and Siraj ran out striker Karunaratne on a throw in the follow-through.
In the end, India called off the last wicket attempt from the other end to let Siraj go for a five-wicket haul. He eventually got an LBW decision in his favor off the last ball of his 10-run knock, but Rajita edged it inside and reviewed successfully. Kuldeep ended the match adding 22 runs in the last wicket before ending the match with the wicket of Kumara.
Siddharth Monga is assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo