Upul Tharanga's seventh century in one-day Internationals took a long time coming. He had to wait for more than three years and 53 matches before he could reach the magical three-figure milestone again. His joy, however, was short-lived. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, though, yanked the spotlight from Tharanga, gate-crashing what seemed to be the Sri Lankan's party at Eden Gardens last night with centuries of their own, reached off successive deliveries, to help India win by seven wickets and seal the fate of the five-match one-day series with a game to spare.
Picking one of world cricket's most celebrated venues, Kolkata's Eden Gardens, to break his drought, Tharanga scripted a majestic, well- paced 118 to help Sri Lanka post a challenging 315 for six, the highest score at the ground. But the two Delhi teammates, Gambhir (150 not out) and Kohli (107), took centre stage after the early departure of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, sharing a mammoth 224-run partnership to make the target look meagre. Kohli, in the team only due to the injury-enforced absence of Yuvraj
Singh, matched his experienced partner in stroke-making and poise. Playing in just his 13th ODI, the 21-year-old reached three-figures for the first time in international cricket with a wristy on-drive and then punched the air in jubilation. Gambhir reached his seventh century in ODIs off the next ball of the 38th over, but his celebrations were a lot more subdued. Harbhajan Singh, however, could be seen dancing the "bhangra" in the pavilion.
When Gambhir hit the winning runs, a fitting cover drive to the fence off the first ball of the 49th over, a dense fog had enveloped Eden Gardens, but the gloom over the Lankans had settled much earlier. And Tharanga must have been among the more despondent among them to see his effort put to waste so ruthlessly. He had battled hard for his runs after the Indian new-ball bowlers had made their best start of the series.
Ashish Nehra bowled India's first maiden over of the series and got the dangerous Tillakratane Dilshan (nine) cheaply. He and Zaheer Khan did not concede a boundary in the first five overs. Stifled, the visitors, who had reached their 50 in just 3.4 overs in the last game, were 6-0 at that same stage yesterday. The 50 was not up on the board till the 12th over, which was worth 20. Tharanga cut loose in that Ishant Sharma over, smashing five boundaries, two of which were exquisitely driven through the off.
Lanka lost their veteran Sanath Jayasuriya in the next over to Zaheer and Kumar Sangakkara should have been back in the pavilion without scoring, but Harbhajan Singh dropped the Sri Lankan captain off Sharma. The lapse proved costly for the Indians as Sangakkara added 126 for the third wicket with Tharanga from 23.4 overs, providing the middle-order batsmen the platform for the late assault. Sangakkara departed in the 37th over when the score was 196 and
Tharanga followed him 36 runs later. But a brisk 33 from Mahela Jayawardene and some lusty hitting by Thissara Perera (31 from 14 balls) kept Lanka going, adding 79 from the last eight overs to set India what seemed a stiff target at that time, but Gambhir and Kohli made a mockery of it. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Sri Lanka: U Tharanga b Zaheer 118 T Dilshan c Kohli b Nehra 9 S Jayasuriya c Tendulkar b Zaheer 15 K Sangakkara st Karthik b Harbhajan 60 M Jayawardene run out 33 T Perera c Jadeja b Nehra 31 T Kandamby not out 23 T Samaraweera not out 13 Extras: (3lb, 10w) 13 Total (six wickets; 50 overs) 315 Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-72, 3-198, 4-234, 5-271, 6-287 Bowling: Zaheer 10-0-49-2 Nehra 9-1-68-2 (3w) Ishant 7-0-67-0 (1w) Harbhajan 10-0-53-1 (1w) Jadeja 9-1-51-0 Sehwag 3-0-15-0 Raina 2-0-9-0 (1w) India: V Sehwag c Dilshan b Lakmal 10 S Tendulkar c Randiv b Lakmal 8 G Gambhir not out 150 V Kohli c sub b Randiv 107 D Karthik not out 19 Extras: (5lb, 16w, 2nb) 23 Total (three wickets, 48.1 overs) 317 Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-23, 3-247 Bowling: Perera 9-0-66-0 (3w) Lakmal 10-0-55-2 (1nb, 3w) Malinga 9.1-0-75-0 (1nb, 4w) Randiv 10-0-57-1 (1w) Jayasuriya 7-0-42-0 Dilshan 3-0-17-0