AHMEDABAD: Another centurion from India. Though not as effortlessly stylish as his Hyderabadi predecessors – Mohammad Azharuddin and V V S Laxman — Ambati Rayudu literally covered himself in glory as he led his team to a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI on Thursday.
It was a sight to behold as camera lights came on all around the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera as Rayudu neared his hundred, and even more flickered when he tucked Thisara Perera behind square to bring up his maiden ODI hundred, in his 18th innings. Having frittered away decent starts in the past few games, Rayudu took full advantage of the opportunity to bat at number three after Ajinkya Rahane’s early dismissal.
In effect, India’s ‘preparations’ for the World Cup moved forward, with different players coming to the fore. While Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan struggled initially, the second-wicket partnership between Rayudu and Dhawan realised 122 off 121 balls. With a further 135 needed off 140 balls, skipper Virat Kohli joined in the fun to help close out the contest with 33 balls to spare. After Kohli missed half-century by a run, Suresh Raina was in T20 mode before perishing.
For Sri Lanka, their improved batting display was again no match for the hosts’ firepower in familiar surroundings. They, though, may be forgiven for thinking of what might have been had the umpire accepted Sangakkara’s vociferous appeal, after Dhawan seemed to edge Lahiru Gamage when on only 10.
Earlier, a ninth-wicket stand of 54 runs between captain Angelo Mathews and Dhammika Prasad enabled Sri Lanka set India a competitive target.
Senior pro Kumar Sangakkara and Mathews got half-centuries but the boundaries were few and far between. The Indian bowlers kept the visitors on a tight leash for the most part, but Mathews remained unbeaten on 92 to guide his team to a fighting total. Opting to bat first on a hard surface, with a tinge of grass and even bounce, Sri Lankan batsmen appeared tentative. Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma tried to keep the ball up, looking for swing, but were also guilty of bowling a few wides.
A change of personnel at the top failed to inspire SL as Kusal Perera, in for another left-hander Upul Tharanga, was trapped by an inswinger from Yadav.
While Sangakkara was more intent on picking quick singles, the other opener Tillakaratne Dilshan flayed his bat at anything wide. He used his feet as soon as R Ashwin came onto bowl, getting four boundaries, as 18 runs accrued from the off-spinner’s first over.
But left-arm spinner Axar Patel, playing his first ODI in front of home crowd, came on from the other end to send the opener on his way with one that came in with the arm. Ashwin got into the act as Mahela Jayawardene played way too early to a tossed up delivery from Ashwin, even as Rayudu completed a smartcatch running in from mid-wicket.
It was consolidation time for Sangakkara and Mathews thereon. The duo, adding 90 runs for the fourth wicket, had built an excellent platform to launch a final assault but a full toss, which accounted for Sangakkara, from Yadav set them back.
At 149 for 3 in the 31st over, Sri Lanka opted for the batting power play, which tilted the balance in India’s way, as three wickets tumbled for 30 runs.
Mathews laboured on but kept losing partners. In the 40th over, he swept Jadeja for three fours before Thisara Perera rifled one to the sightscreen, as 20 runs resulted from the over. But that was an oddity as the final 10 overs produced only 69 runs.