Rohit Sharma’s first ODI in 10-weeks began with a touch of nerves. He was even kept scoreless in one Angelo Mathews maiden. By the end of the innings, his batting had become cartoonish.
There was no shot he had not played. No part of the ground he had not exploited. No bowler who escaped his brutality. Rohit amassed 45 more runs than any ODI batsman had ever managed in an innings, finishing on 264 from 173 balls when he was finally caught off the last ball of the innings. India, almost incidentally, had moved to 404 for 5, despite having travelled at a run rate of less than six for the first 32 overs.
Rohit’s innings was so ludicrous that the first 100 runs, which were hit at a run-a-ball, seems achingly humdrum in comparison to the 164 that followed. The surge had actually begun before he reached his century, when he plundered 14 runs in four balls, in Nuwan Kulasekara’s 30th over. Soon after that, the ball would be leaping off the middle of his bat with almost every stroke he offered.
There were many incredible shots, from among his 33 fours and nine sixes, but the most gobsmacking was the six off Kulasekara at the end of the 48th over, when he walked across to off stump, took a half volley from about a foot and half away from him and flicked it high over the midwicket boundary. It was the kind of shot, and innings, that seemed in open defiance of physics.
Sri Lanka had played a tour match against Mumbai to warm-up for the series, but little did they know Rohit was warming-up against them. He hit 145 from 111 in that match – his first competitive game since fracturing a finger in August – and he has now re-embedded himself at the top of the India batting order in the most resounding fashion imaginable.
The most dispiriting aspect of the flogging for Sri Lanka was their complicity in it. Shaminda Eranga had extracted a thick outside edge from Rohit in the fifth over, and though the ball carried comfortably to Thisara Perera at third man, he shelled the chance. Having been dropped on 4, Rohit would become the third India centurion this series to have been reprieved early in his innings. It makes sense, then, that since he hit a double-century, he should be dropped twice. Seekkuge Prasanna obliged him, when he shelled another straightforward chance off Rohit in the 46th over, with the batsman on 201 this time.
Kulasekara had strayed too straight to Rahane, in particular, who picked him off for a spate of leg-side fours to kick the India innings into gear, in a 14-run first over. Angelo Mathews and Eranga delivered more disciplined new-ball spells, claiming a wicket each inside the first 15 overs, but that is as good as the visitors’ bowling effort got. Sri Lanka’s lines and lengths worsened gradually from the 20th over onwards, until they had become almost farcical by the 35th over.
Another beautifully orchestrated batting Powerplay from India – between the 30th and 34th overs – brought them 67 runs, and was enough to hammer the Sri Lanka bowlers off their rhythm for the rest of the innings. Short, wide deliveries, thigh-high full tosses and rank long hops were presented with alarming regularity, and the fielding was almost as woeful. Sri Lanka had not expected to begin the series strongly, given their lack of preparation, but in these two disciplines, they have actually worsened significantly through the tour.
Having been joined at 59 for 2, Kohli and Rohit put on 202 brisk runs together, before miscommunication between the wickets saw Kohli run out for 66. That wasn’t even the most astounding partnership of the India innings. When Rohit and Robin Uthappa came together in the 41st over, the score was 276 for 4. They would put on 128 runs in 58 balls together. Out of that, Uthappa’s contribution was a run-a-ball 16.
By the time Rohit hit Kulasekara down Mahela Jayawardene’s throat at long-off, the record for most fours struck in an innings had also tumbled, and Rohit was in possession of half the ODI scores over 200. One record he missed out on by one delivery, was Sunil Gavaskar’s record for most balls faced. Gavaskar had made 36 not out.
Kusal Perera attempted to pull a short ball from way outside off stump and ended up scooping a catch to midwicket to collect his second duck of the series. Tillakaratne Dilshan was still visibly out of sorts, but he still outlived his next two partners. Dinesh Chandimal drove Stuart Binny uppishly to cover and Mahela Jayawardene was trapped in front by Umesh Yadav. When Dilshan himself fell, giving a catch to short cover off his leading edge, even the slim hopes Sri Lanka had of running down the total were effectively extinguished.
Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne forged a 118-run stand for the fifth wicket, with Mathews hitting 75 off 68, and Thirimanne making 59 upon his return to the side. But even as the batsmen progressed briskly by usual standards, the run-rate kept on climbing, until it was above 11, when the pair were separated in the 29th over. Thisara came in to bludgeon 29, scoring 23 of those off a Karn Sharma over. But the Powerplay came, and both he and Thirimanne fell to Kulkarni, within four balls, to usher in the tail. Kulkarni removed two more from the lower order to finish with 4 for 34, and India completed yet another crushing victory.
(Taken from ESPNcricinfo, Andrew Fidel Fernando)