Rohit Sharma‘s template in ODIs isn’t complicated: watchful in the first 10 overs, accumulation in the next 30 overs, and a belligerent assault in the last 10. Sri Lanka knew all about it, having conceded 264 to him in Kolkata three years ago, but he reminded them again in terrific batting conditions in Mohali. He razed his way to his third double-century in ODIs to launch India to 392 for 4, helping India level the series with a 141-run drubbing, ESPNCricinfo reports.
Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer gave Rohit able company with rapid half-centuries, as India posted their 100th 300-plus total in ODIs. Angelo Mathews led Sri Lanka’s losing battle with a fighting hundred, his second in ODIs, but just like AB de Villiers’ 114 against India in Gwalior in 2010, it didn’t take much away from a stunning double-hundred.
Given Mohali’s large boundaries, Sri Lanka’s response was to take pace off the ball and try bowling short. It didn’t work. Sri Lanka’s end-overs specialists Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep then tried firing in wide yorkers. It didn’t work. Straight yorkers? Nope. Low full-tosses resulted in sixes over midwicket and square leg. As the level of intimidation went up, Sri Lanka grew increasingly helpless.
So frenetic was the pace of the final third of Rohit’s innings that he scored more than half of his unbeaten 208 in the last 10 overs. He had nudged his way to his 16th ODI century by the end of the 40th, and then went on to thump 107 more off his final 37 balls. He scored 144, close to 70% of his runs, square on either side of the wicket.
India scored 147 in the last 10 overs. Nuwan Pradeep came close to Mick Lewis’ record of most runs conceded in an ODI, but finished seven runs short, ending at 10-0-106-0.
Confidence is arguably the most influential factor in sport. Any team is bound to be tentative after slumping to 29 for 7 in their previous game. So when India were put in to bat in hazy conditions, Rohit and Dhawan put away their attacking instincts, allowing Sri Lanka’s in-form seamers to win the first Powerplay: they scored just 33 in the first 10 overs.
Apart from their ability to steal singles with soft hands in the Powerplay, Rohit and Dhawan are also proficient because they prefer different lengths. Dhawan sits back and waits for bowlers to err on the short side, and Rohit favours the fuller length when they compensate. For 10 overs, Sri Lanka found the perfect length in-between.
As fatigue crept in and new bowlers took time to settle, they erred too often. India’s run-rate rose from a little over three to above five in a few overs thereafter. Dhawan was particularly productive square on either side of the wicket, hitting nine fours before shovelling a flick to midwicket off Sachith Pathirana.
After cruising to fifty, Rohit chose only the errant deliveries to attack. But India’s run-rate remained lofty due to Iyer’s belligerence. After moving quietly to 11 off 15, he chipped down the track off Pathirana and hit him over mid-on despite not getting to the pitch of the ball. Sri Lanka changed their length, and Iyer pounced on width.
Iyer led the charge after Rohit’s ton. He displayed the strong bottom-handed power that has almost become a requisite in modern ODI batting. He also showed off his touch, guiding and scything balls either side of point. He eventually holed out for 88 off 70 balls, an innings that featured nine fours and two sixes, in the the 46th over, but the damage had been done.
The chase fizzled out early, as Sri Lanka labored their way to 41 for 2 after the first 10 overs. Upul Tharanga slapped a catch to cover and Danushka Gunathilaka was strangled down the leg side. Lahiru Thirimanne’s horror form continued, managing just 21 runs off 34 balls before attempting a premeditated reverse-sweep off debutant Washington Sundar, who struck off his ninth ball in ODIs.
Sri Lanka’s middle order, led by Mathews, batted with intent and aggression. Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne contributed with brisk cameos, but were dismissed trying to keep up with an asking rate that soared past 10 runs per over with more than half the innings remaining.
When he could, Mathews stepped out to hit over the in-field. When he couldn’t, he used his wrists and bottom hand to wriggle out runs on the leg side. He hit 72 of his unbeaten 111 on the leg side, accounting for 65% of his runs.