India have all the reasons to feel good about batting ahead of their upcoming tour of Australia after Rohit Sharma, playing his first international match since August on account of finger and shoulder injuries, scored his second double hundred (264 off 173 balls) to help India thrash Sri Lanka for the fourth time running in the five-game series at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Thursday.
Rohit, after becoming the first batsman to score two double hundreds, also broke Virender Sehwag’s record of highest individual score of 219 as India posted a mammoth 404 in pursuit of which the Sri Lankans could only manage 251 all out in 43.1 overs. In the previous games of the series, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ambati Raidu all were among the runs but India still needed Rohit – one of their big batting hopes – to get some confidence before the gruelling Australian tour gets underway later this month.
Standin captain Kohli’s comments on Rohit on the eve of the match that “if a player like him gets going he can be the X factor in a tournament like the World Cup. When he gets going, he can bring those big runs and win the match for you” echoed at the hallowed Eden Gardens in front of thousands of Indian fans as the 27-year-old hit a record 33 boundaries to go with nine sixes. Looking at his score, one might think that he was in his zone from the first ball but that wasn’t the case. In the first half of his innings, he was sluggish struggling to meet the ball properly.
Rohit, who took Dhawan’s place for this match, was lucky to get a reprieve on four when Thisara Perera dropped a simple catch at third man off the bowling of Angelo Mathews. His discomfort could be gauged from the fact it took him 22 balls to pick up his first boundary and then 72 balls for a fifty. However, once past fifty, Rohit upped the ante big time with his next four fifties coming off just 28, 25, 26 and 15 balls. India, for the second time in series after the Cuttack game, took the batting Powerplay a bit earlier than usual and made 57 runs from 29-34 overs. Rohit had plenty of support from Kohli (66 off 64 balls, 33rd fifty), after Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu contributed 28 and 8 respectively, and both added 202 in 25.5 overs.
Kohli’s run-out, resultant of a misunderstanding on the second run, was the only blemish of that partnership. Suresh Raina got out cheaply for 11 but Rohit continued his assault, adding 128 in 9.4 overs runs with Robin Uthappa (16*) before falling off the last ball of the innings. India scored 129 in the last 10 overs. The Sri Lankan bowlers had a nightmarish outing with Nuwan Kulasekera, Shaminda Eranga, Sekkuge Prasanna and Ajantha Mendis returning 2/89 ( 9 overs), 1/77 (10 overs), 0/70 (10 overs) and 0/70 (7 overs) respectively. The visitors’ hopes of a remote win were dashed in the first ten overs thanks to Umesh Yadav and Stuart Binny whose strikes left the Sri Lankans gasping for breath at 48 for 4.
After that the match became academic as Mathews’ men only played to reduce the margin of defeat. Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne added 118 runs and then, after Akshar Patel had Mathews stumped for 75, Thirimanne (59) put on 52 with Thisara (29) to blow away fears that it could be their worse defeat than their 183-run thrashing at Taunton in 1999 – their biggest loss in terms of runs against India. Encouraged by a big total, Indian bowlers Umesh (2/38), Binny (2/55), Patel (2/51) and Dhawal Kulkarni (4/34) plied their trade with a lot of freedom. However, it wasn’t a good day for debutant legspinner Karn Sharma who took some pounding and returned with figures of 0/64. The last game of the series will be played in Ranchi on Sunday.
Brief scores: India 404/5 (Rohit 264, Kohli 66; Kulasekara 2/89) beat Sri Lanka (Mathews 75, Thirimanne 59; Kulkarni 4/33) by 153 runs