India defeated Sri Lanka by 168 runs in the fourth ODI to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series. There were many statistical highlights from the game, but you already know the match will not be remembered for its numbers right?
When India won the toss and decided to bat on a beautiful batting deck, we knew Kohli’s team will be looking to flex its batting muscles for the first time in the series. After another rare failure for Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli joined Rohit Sharma at the crease and what unfolded over the next two hours can only be described as batting pageantry. If this match was a Bollywood movie, then the partnership between these two was the item song which brings people to the theatres.
Kohli started the show with an elegant cover drive. The ball was pitched well outside the off stump and was going further away with the angle of left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando but Kohli had played the last 8 balls watchfully and knew this pitch could be trusted. The expression on his face and the shake of the head when he met Rohit in the middle of the pitch said it all. The India captain wouldn’t be holding back now. Just to prove his point, Kohli sent the next two balls to the boundary. In three balls we had already seen the full range of Kohli’s batting ammunition. The power, poise and front foot push — all systems checked. When that happens, it normally means Kohli will get a hundred.
In the next three overs, Kohli had raced to 30 with six boundaries. What separates Kohli from his peers as a one-day batsman is the ease with which he picks risk free boundaries. In an era where a lot of batsmen premeditate a shot especially in the power play overs, Kohli generally doesn’t have any idea where the ball will be dispatched until it leaves the bowler’s hand. Even in T20s, he mostly relies on timing the ball and finding the gaps. Unless he is whipping the ball through the leg side with his wrists, there is hardly any follow through of the bat either. It’s almost as if he wants to score runs but doesn’t want to rub it into the bowlers with a flourishing blade.
Rohit was happy watching this from the other end for a major part of the powerplay overs. He has never been one to eagerly rush off the blocks. But he can surprise you with a sudden display of aggression out of nowhere. When Angelo Mathews pitched one slightly short of length in the ninth over, Rohit needed no second invitation. As he often does, the Mumbai batsman pulled it disdainfully off the front foot to send it soaring over the boundary. The lazy giant was well awake now.
Kohli was dealing almost exclusively in fours now with drives and flicks straight out of coaching manual. He raised his fifty in the 11th over of the game. The only time he looked slightly ungainly was when he was a bit late on the pull shot against a Lasith Malinga bouncer but still got four for it.
Sri Lanka rolled the dice with Akila Dhananjaya in the 12th over. His spell was the only thing that could save Sri Lanka now from India posting an improbable total. The pair watchfully negotiated his first over before Rohit decided to take the charge. A premeditated heave and a powerful sweep gave him a four and a six, and Dhananjaya was already blunted.
It was time for an all out charge from both ends now. Kohli showed his version of the lofted drive in the 16th over to collect his first six and Rohit matched it with his own nonchalant extra-cover lofted drive for four the very next over. The bowlers were mere spectators. The two partners at the crease had entered blockbuster mode and doing a friendly dance-off to delight the spectators.
Before long, we were witnessing the inevitable Kohli hundred, off 76 balls. Kohli celebrated sheepishly, almost as if he was too embarrassed to collect an international hundred this easily. With 26 overs still to go, a double hundred was on the cards for the India captain. He was only battling humidity and his own boredom now.
Rohit meanwhile was manufacturing shots to kill his own boredom. Angling his blade like an artist to place the ball to the left or right of a diving fieldsman and just to ensure it doesn’t get monotonous for them, hitting it over their head.
Kohli perished when he drove one uppishly over cover only to give a simple catch to the boundary rider. It was Malinga’s 300th ODI wicket and it couldn’t have come at a better time for his team desperately seeking some relief.
Rohit got to his hundred in the 34th over with an effortless on drive. He became the only Indian to score back-to-back hundreds in Sri Lanka. He perished soon after in a mini collapse for his team but the platform set by him and Kohli was too strong for Sri Lanka to have any chance of a comeback.
This was the third 200 partnership between Rohit and Kohli which makes them the joint highest-pair for most 200 plus partnerships. With the two still in their batting prime, the cricket world can look forward to more entertainment from this pair.