India v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy warm-up match, Birmingham June 1, 2013

Kohli, Karthik set up strong win for India


India 337 for 5 (Kohli 144, Karthik 106*) beat Sri Lanka 333 for 3 (Dilshan 84, Kusal Perera 82) by five wickets

It says much for the enduring appeal of 50-over cricket that, despite looking the second-best team for much of the day, India still left Edgbaston celebrating an exhilarating victory with six deliveries to spare.

If it was a stand of 186 in 140 balls between Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik that provided most obvious cause for Indian joy, as it helped them fight back in a match that had appeared to be sliding inexorably towards Sri Lanka, perhaps it was more subtle factors that will be of long-term relevance.

Even if India had lost this game, they might have been justified in leaving Edgbaston in good spirits, for this match did provide hints that some of the pre-conceptions about this tournament may be misplaced.

India, despite their No.1 ranking, are not among the favourites for the Champions Trophy. That is due, in part, to the suspicion that, in English, early-season conditions and with two new balls, they may lack the specialists to cope. Not only, it is argued, will they lack the batting techniques to negate the rising, swinging ball, but they might lack the bowling firepower - the admirable Bhuvneshwar Kumar aside - to hurt sides in reply.

But, on the evidence of this game, conditions may not be so alien. Despite awful weather in Birmingham for almost as long as anyone can remember, this was an excellent batting surface. And while two new balls were used, the early indications are that the kookaburra-turf ball in operation hardly swings. Indeed, it just means that batsmen still have a hard ball to hit later in the innings. In such circumstances, India, utilising their spinners and powerful batsmen, may be far more at home than has been anticipated. There was not a single maiden all day.

Certainly Kohli and Karthik, celebrating his 28th birthday in some style, looked at home as they accelerated towards victory. While few of the Sri Lankan bowlers will reflect with much pleasure on this performance - Jeevan Mendis conceded 31 in his three overs - there were times when the India pair allowed so little margin for error that it looked almost impossible to contain them.

Kohli, initially at least, picked up runs with stealth and quick running - at one stage, he scored 20 singles in succession and managed an all-run four on this far from huge ground. Karthik was more aggressive, his century came in just 79 balls and included an array of boundaries flicked, driven and bludgeoned through the leg-side.

It would be foolish to read too much into this result. It was not an ODI and the teams agreed to play 15 men aside. What is more, while Sri Lanka decided to retire their top two batsmen just as they might have been expected to accelerate, India allowed their two top-scorers to win the game. Sri Lanka were also without Lasith Malinga who arrived late and was suffering from jet-lag. No one will remember this match in a few weeks.

And, for much of the game, Sri Lanka looked the better side. Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan batted with some class to post 160 for Sri Lanka's first wicket in 26 overs, before Dinesh Chandimal and Kumar Sangakkara, back on the ground that he briefly made his home, also impressed.

India's bowling was loose and their fielding lethargic. While it is true they have not played ODI cricket since January, the rustiness of some of the bowling was alarming and will need to be rectified quickly if they are to progress.

The top-order batting was underwhelming, too. When Kohli and Karthik came together, at 110 for 4 in the 21st over, their cause looked close to hopeless. But Kohli was calm - his century occupied 95 balls and included only seven fours and a six - and his acceleration afterwards oozed class and suggested he had simply been playing with the bowling previously.

Karthik, if anything, was even more impressive, if not quite as pleasing on the eye. The pair set up a platform to help India score 208 runs from the final 24 overs and 130 from the final 14. Sri Lanka's bowling wilted in the face of the assault.

It is also worth noting the attendance at this match. While several other venues in England and Wales struggle to sell respectable numbers of tickets for games involving England - tickets are still available for the Champions Trophy match between England and New Zealand in Cardiff, and attendance for the second Test between England and New Zealand at Leeds was bitterly disappointing - more than 5,500 people paid £20 a head and watched this game at Edgbaston. If anyone needed any reminder of the financial muscle of Indian cricket - and they really shouldn't have done - it was provided here.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manesh on June 5, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    When SL fully in momentum they will realize that they are out of the tournament. What a pity.

  • Manesh on June 5, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    No matter what ever may be the score - it may 400 or 450 - the current Indian team is capable to chase it down. So nothing to do with those retirements.

  • Harmon on June 4, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Warm up match SL vs India:

    SL bat first, two set batsmen retire to give practice to others. SL score 334. India, who had barely finished IPL, bat second, are in a tough position yet chase 334 down in 3rd gear, with no real extra effort.

    SL fans complain, give excuses, say pitch was flat, Malinga did not play blah blah.

    ***FACT ==> SL LOST***

    Warm up match SL vs WI: WI bat first, two set batsmen retire to give practice to others. WI score 297, which is much less than 334. SL, who have already been in Eng for many days are must be fully acclimatized, bat second, are never in a position to win, fail to chase even 297 even with full effort.

    SL fans will complain the target was too big, will give excuse that this was just a warm up match blah blah.

    ***FACT ==> SL LOST***AGAIN***

    This was just like WC Final vs WT20 Final. What India did with ease SL couldn't come close with all their effort.

    But still, one has to admit that SL are a much much better team than India.

  • trev on June 4, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    @Waqas Mustafa, your point has been made about 100 times, but the indian fans don't seem to understand it. We will see if not giving all of India's players match practice will benefit them later on in the tournament... While SL will hopefully slowly build momentum.

  • trev on June 4, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    @harmony111, this is pointless. You are not listening to me. Stat-wise, India are on top of SL and that is only by 11 games (ODI's). It bores me to repeat myself, but it is quite close between the 2 teams. I am not saying in ODI's that SL are better. I am saying in time, they will be is all. Just watch how the tournament plays out please.

  • Manesh on June 4, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Even if India won the match, SL is the better team!! I am fed up with that logic!

  • Isuru on June 4, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    No doubt.Sri Lankan cricket team is better than Indian cricket team.

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2013, 2:49 GMT

    Praising India after this win is pointless, I think all of the Indian supporters missed the fact that is clearly written in the article as ''while Sri Lanka decided to retire their top two batsmen just as they might have been expected to accelerate''. If they would have continued, India could have been chasing 400. Correct me if I'm wrong. Sri Lanka did well to give enough match practice to each of their batters and this will definitely help them do better in the REAL matches

  • Andrew on June 3, 2013, 23:43 GMT

    @ latecut_04 on (June 3, 2013, 8:57 GMT) - For India, so much rests on Dhoni (& Kholi's) shoulders in this tournament it is not funny. Rohit & Raina have the ability to step up - but have had long ODI careers & so far not really shone (particularly away asia) & the rest of the batting is stat-wise fairly ordinary. So for India to do well, either Kholi have to produce the greatest individual CT performances of all time, or the rest of the batsmen have to perform above their career records. For the bowlers - IMO Bhuvi will be the BIG surprise packet, but I have my fingers crossed that Yadav is FULLY fit & sends downs some 150kph thunderbolts. Whilst Ishant is stat-wise arguably the worst bowler to take 100 wickets in Test history, he is a lot more effective in ODIs & is a reasonable 3rd seam option. I am assume Dhoni used so much spin in the trial game for 2 reasons 1) Didn't want to lose a trial to SL, & 2) Trying to uncover who will bed down the only specialist spin spot available?

  • Harmon on June 3, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Thanks Adithya Bourne. Did you see what travs696 himself admitted? He is the first SL fan here to admit that he does not go by facts and prefers to go by his own whims. So there you go, even if India beat SL 50 times in the next 5 years and lose only 5 times the SL fans will still keep on saying that SL is better than India. They will either give no reason or will give stupid reasons such as SL are better than India cos Sunday comes before Monday.... :-p