Sehwag, Kohli set up comfortable India win
India 314 for 6 (Kohli 106, Sehwag 96) beat Sri Lanka 293 for 9 (Sangakkara 133, Irfan 2-37, Ashwin 2-46) by 21 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India hardly looked a side playing their first match in four months. Their batsmen pounded Sri Lanka for a 300-plus total; their bowling, for once, did not fall apart and led by Irfan Pathan, ensured the total was a winning one. Virat Kohli, now easily one of the best ODI batsmen in the world, cracked his third consecutive century against Sri Lanka, his fourth in five innings, and his fifth successive fifty-plus score, equalling the Indian record. Virender Sehwag resembled a man playing his first international game in nearly five months only briefly, before scattering the field with a 97-ball 96. Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni made sure India recovered from a slight wobble, adding 79 in nine overs towards the finish.
Kumar Sangakkara responded with his third century in four international games, also only his second ODI hundred at home, but by the time he got credible support at the other end from No. 8 Thisara Perera, the match had slipped too far out of Sri Lanka's grasp. Perera did give India a scare, smacking 44 off 28 deliveries, but the departure of Sangakkara in the 48th over ended a stand of 78 off 53, and also Sri Lanka's hopes.
India had looked rusty initially, as Sehwag played-and-missed three successive times in Nuwan Kulasekara's opening over. In the second over, he sliced Lasith Malinga straight to point, where Tillakaratne Dilshan put the catch down. In the third over, Gautam Gambhir was almost run-out when he was caught in a big mix-up with Sehwag. It was Dilshan, again, who missed the direct hit from point. Gambhir departed next ball though, bowled round his legs off a straight ball from Kulasekara. Soon enough though, India settled in, Sehwag and Kohli putting the powerful line-up on its way to another big total.
Kohli's arrival immediately brought stability to the middle. He likes to get forward, and did so to defend solidly. One such push even earned him three runs past extra cover. He slashed his third ball for four past point, and Sehwag soon took over.
A Malinga length ball was driven on the up past extra cover, Kulasekara was slammed down the ground. Mahela Jayawardene took out fine leg and put in deep point inside the first Powerplay. Sehwag's response was to drill Angelo Mathews over cover for four more. In the eleventh over, Sehwag, on 24, tried to loft Perera over extra cover but mistimed the stroke. Kulasekara ran in from mid-off and dived forward to take the ball but Sehwag escaped as replays proved inconclusive, as they usually do in such cases. Kulasekara also injured his groin during the attempt, and bowled only five overs. Two balls later, it was Kohli's turn to escape as Perera failed to hold on to a tough return chance to his left. Kohli was on 16 then.
By the time Sri Lanka separated the pair in the 32nd over, they had added 173 at almost a run a ball. It was a furious Sehwag who departed, four short of what would have been his 16th ODI ton, run out by Perera after being sent back by Kohli while attempting a single.
India slipped from 180 for 1 to 228 for 4. Rohit Sharma was late on one that nipped back a bit and lost his off bail, before Kohli fell for 106, also a victim of Perera, caught sharply by substitute Sachithra Senanayake at extra cover in the 40th.
It looked as though Sri Lanka might keep things tidy in the final 10, with Raina and Dhoni picking off only one boundary in four overs. But then they launched, taking 64 off the final six overs - Raina got to a fifty off 44 balls, while Dhoni unleashed his signature helicopter shots - to make sure India got easily past the 300-run mark.
India's opening bowling pair of Zaheer Khan and Irfan generated enough movement in the first Powerplay to keep Sri Lanka to 41 for 1. R Ashwin took over and ensured Sri Lanka did not get away; he even bowled a wicket-maiden in the bowling Powerplay.
As the night grew darker in the forest surrounding the stadium, Sri Lanka's chances began to appear tougher. Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga did add 77 for the second wicket, but the stand ate up 105 balls and by the time the latter fell to Ashwin, the asking rate was approaching seven-and-a-half.
This was after Tillakaratne Dilshan had failed to capitalise, like Virender Sehwag had, on a dropped catch early in his innings. In Zaheer's opening over, Dilshan cracked his first ball for four, edged the second to slip only for Sehwag to clang it, and was out leg-before to his sixth, off Irfan, as he missed an attempted whip.
Sangakkara could have gone second ball, on 0, when he edged an away-going Irfan delivery just past second slip. He should have gone off Umesh Yadav's second ball, in the eleventh over, when he slashed between MS Dhoni and wide slip, but the wicketkeeper did not go for the catch.
Sangakkara struggled to accelerate during the middle of his innings, but he kept Sri Lanka going, even as his team-mates kept falling. No one from No. 1 to No. 7, barring Sangakkara, managed more than 28, falling to the pressure of the asking rate.
Sangakkara's century gave the crowd on the twin grass banks an opportunity to blow their horns louder, but even as he and Perera tried, the game had already blown away from Sri Lanka. To reach 293 from 191 for 6 in the 39th over was, in the end, quite an achievement.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo