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An unbeaten 146 run partnership for the 5th wicket between Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina helped India cruise to an easy 6 wicket in the fourth ODI in Colombo to seal the 5-match series against Sri Lanka with a game to spare. Batting first, Sri Lanka posted an under-par 251-8 in their 50 overs with India's part-time bowlers led by Manoj Tiwary doing a terrific job for MS Dhoni. Tiwary picked up a career best 4-61, bowling out 10 overs and knocked out the crux of the much vaunted Lankan middle order. India were always on top of the asking rate in their chase, and the Kohli - Raina partnership helped them ease to victory inside 43 overs. Kohli scored his 13th ODI ton, notching up an excellent 128 at better than a-run-a-ball, while Raina scored his second consecutive half-century of the series.
Trailing 2-1 in the 5-match ODI series, Sri Lanka hoped to bring their A-game to the fore as they took the bull by the horns and opted to bat first for the second straight game at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, despite the Indians pulling off a record chase in their last outing.
There were some edits to both sides with Lahiru Thirimanne coming in for the injured Kumar Sangakkara, while Isuru Udana was dropped from the playing eleven to make way for Nuwan Pradeep. India raised a fee eyebrows by recalling Manoj Tiwary, after the youngster had sat on the bench for 14 straight matches since scoring a century in December, but not in place of the out of form Rohit Sharma, but for leg-spinner Rahul Sharma instead. A bizarre move considering that India were already taking a bit of a risk by playing Irfan Pathan as an allrounder, and would now once again need to manufacture 10+ overs from somewhere. Ashok Dinda was given a second chance to impress despite being carted for runs in the last game.
With Sangakkara missing from the squad for this game, there was added responsibility on the Lankan openers to deliver, and they did not disappoint, racing away to 45-0 in 10 overs. There was no extravagant swing on offer today for the Indian seamers, and apart from the odd ball beating the bat, it looked like a run feast was on the cards in Colombo. Dilshan hit 6 boundaries and picked up 1 single to race away to 25 at near a run a ball, while Tharanga was adopting the more patient approach, struggling to beat the infield against the two left-arm seamers in operation.
India pulled things back briefly over the next 5 overs, but Sri Lanka took the batting powerplay in the 15th over and scored 35 runs in the 5-over window that followed to ensure that they were on course to setting a big score. Ashok Dinda though struck in the 19th over to remove Dilshan with a short ball that went straight up in the air, ending his innings for 42. India smartly opted for the bowling powerplay immediately after and were able to squeeze through 5 overs for the loss of just 22 runs and also picked up the bonus wicket of Upul Tharanga, who gave Ashwin the charge, but missed the ball, to be stumped shortly after completing his half-century.
Lahiru Thirimanne came in at no.3 and was fortunate to be given an extra life when Virat Kohli dropped a sitter in the covers, but India did get a breakthrough a few overs later with Dinesh Chandimal (28) hitting a rank long hop from part-timer Manoj Tiwary straight down the throat of Irfan Pathan in the deep. India continued to have the rub of the green as Sehwag picked up the massive wicket of Mahela Jayawardene in the very next over, caught by Dhoni for 3.
While Thirimanne continued to hold one end up, wickets continued to tumble around him, keeping India very much on top in this contest. Tiwary ran through the lower middle order picking up the wickets of Angelo Mathews (14), Jeevan Mendis (17) and Thisara Perera to give India plenty of joy.
Ashwin then accounted for Thirimanne for 47 to leave Sri Lanka in tatters at 219-8 in the 47th over. However, some poor decision making from Dhoni, who opted to give Tiwary the last over of the innings, saw the part-time spinner clubbed for 18 runs, allowing Sri Lanka to squeeze past 250. Lasith Malinga gave Dhoni fair warning by smashing Tiwary for a 6 in the 48th over, but the Indian skipper paid no heed and was duly punished with Rangana Herath finishing unbeaten on 17 (15b) while Malinga chipped in with a 7-ball 15.
Sri Lanka carried their late innings momentum into their bowling with Lasith Malinga removing the dangerous Gautam Gambhir in the very first over for naught. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli shared in a 50-run partnership dominated completely by the former, who made a brisk 34 from 29-balls before getting a leading edge off Mathews. Rohit Sharma's woes on this tour continued as the young Mumbaikar made a painfully slow 4 runs before he was trapped leg before by Nuwan Pradeep. At 60-3 midway through the 13th over it was very much anybody's game.
Virat Kohli and Manoj Tiwary brought some sanity to the chase by stitching together a crucial partnership for the 4th wicket, and at 20 over mark, the hosts were back in cruise control mode at 97-3.
Tiwary's adventure in the middle ended in the 24th over with the young Bengal batsman being trapped leg before by Jeevan Mendis for 21 as India slid to 109-4.
Suresh Raina came in next and was perhaps a tad fortunate to survive a vociferous appeal for caught behind off Herath. The decision was too close to call, and the benefit of doubt rightly went the way of the batsman. While Raina took some time to find his feet, Kohli brought up his half-century in 65 balls.
Kohli decided to cut loose after getting to the landmark and dominated the early exchanges of the partnership, finding crucial boundaries in the middle overs to take the pressure off the Indians. Raina had another reprieve when Mahela Jayawardene dropped a sitter at slip, with Raina inexplicably opening the face of his bat and guiding Nuwan Pradeep straight to the fielder.
The duo brought up their 50 partnership in just 55 balls and India were once again on track for a comfortable win. Kohli and Raina exploded in the batting powerplay, smashing 55 runs in the 5-over window. Both men brought up landmarks in a Malinga over with Raina timing a push through point to bring up his 50 off 46 balls, while Kohli's hook shot off a bouncer brought up his century from 106 deliveries. The right-hander was fortunate to be gifted a life as Pradeep dropped him off another short ball later in the over.
Kohli decided to finish things in a hurry thereafter, smashing Herath for four boundaries in the 42nd over to draw the scores level. Raina then hit the winning runs in the next over to seal a comfortable win, and wrap up the series 3-1.
The action will now shift to Pallekele where the teams will do battle in the dead rubber on Saturday, 4th August, followed by a T20 International on the 7th. Sri Lanka will be keen to win the final game of the series to restore some confidence, while India could well see this as an opportunity to test their bench strength.
Sri Lanka: T Dilshan, U Tharanga, D Chandimal (wk), M Jayawardene (c), L Thirimanne, J Mendis, A Mathews, T Perera, R Herath, N Pradeep, L Malinga.
India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, V Kohli, R Sharma, M Tiwary, S Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), I Pathan, R Ashwin, Z Khan, A Dinda.
Sri Lanka 251-8 (50 overs, 5.02rpo)
U Tharanga 51 (73) M Tiwary 4-61
L Thirimanne 47 (69) R Ashwin 2-46
India 255-4 (42.2 overs, 5.02rpo)
V Kohli 128* (119) A Mathews 1-18
S Raina 58* (51) J Mendis 1-37
India win by 6 wickets with 46 balls to spare
File Photograph Copyright: ICC
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