Dambulla (Sri Lanka): Power-packed innings from Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli guided India to a comfortable nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their first One Day International (ODI) at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium here on Sunday.
Dhawan slammed 132 runs in 90 balls while Kohli smashed 82 runs off 70 deliveries. Both players forged a 197-run partnership for the second wicket, the highest in Sri Lanka against Sri Lanka.
It all went good for India in this match. After a little bit of punishment initially, their bowlers bounced back in style to restrict the hosts for 216 and then Dhawan and Kohli applied themselves perfectly to chase down the total with 21.1 overs (127 balls) remaining. This also helped them to record their biggest win, in terms of overs to spare, for a target of over 200.
Coming in to chase a relatively low total, openers Rohit Sharma and Dhawan started the innings on a steady note but Rohit failed to support the Delhi batsman for long as he was dismissed in the fifth over with barely 23 runs on the board.
Incoming batsman and skipper Kohli, along with Dhawan, then paced up the innings by thrashing the Sri Lankan bowlers all around the park. It was raining boundaries in the ground and stopped only after they reached the target. Dhawan slammed 20 boundaries and three sixes while Kohli hit 10 boundaries and one six.
Earlier, Sri Lanka wasted a good start to allow Indian spinners to bounce back in style and restrict the hosts to 216.
For Sri Lanka, openers Niroshan Dickwella (64) and Anjelo Mathews (36 not out) were the major contributors to the cause.
Unlike the Test series, which the hosts lost 0-3, Sri Lanka started the limited overs campaign on a good note as their top order stood up to the occasion. The top three batsmen maintained a perfect run-rate till the halfway-mark of the allotted 50 overs.
India's ploy to use pacer Jasprit Bumrah as the first change also failed as all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was brought in for Bumrah, was smashed by the Sri Lankan batman. Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar also failed to click this time.
But soon, after 12 overs, when the spinners were introduced, it was India gaining the upper edge as the Sri Lankan batsman found it difficult to tackle them.
After Indian skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat, Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka gave the perfect start to their team as both forged a 74-run partnership in 14 overs before the latter was sent back to the pavilion by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (74/1).
Unperturbed by the fall of Gunathilaka's wicket, incoming batsman Kusal Mendis (36) along with Dickwella continued the pace and built up a 65-run stand for the second wicket. But just when things seemed good in the middle, Dickwella was adjudged leg before wicket off Kedar Jadhav in the 25th over (139/2).
It was just after Dickwella's wicket that the Sri Lankans lost the plot and started losing their wickets at regular intervals. Apart from the top-three batsmen, no other player stood up to the Indian pressure and went back to the pavilion one by one.
Anjelo Mathews (36 not out) somehow managed to stick at the wicket but lack of support from the other end resulted in a low total for the hosts.
Mathews apart, other middle-order batsmen Upul Tharanga (13), Chamara Kapugedera (1) Wanidu Hasaranga (2) scored a total of 16 runs only.
Lower-order players Thisara Perera (0), Lakshan Sandakan (5) and Lasith Malinga (8) tried to make up for the middle-order collapse but failed and thus, after a perfect start, the Islanders were restricted to 216.
For India, left-arm spinner Axar Patel scalped three wickets while Bumrah, Chahal and Jadhav took two wickets each.