RANCHI: Skipper Angelo Mathews led from the front with his maiden century in limited overs as Sri Lanka scored a respectable 286 for eight in 50 overs against India in the fifth and final cricket ODI here today.
Tottering at 85 for 4 in 18.3 overs, Mathews arrested the slide and ensured that show some will to fight for the first time in their most forgettable two-week sojourn here as his
entertaining knock 139 from 116 balls had 10 big sixes apart from six boundaries. In fact he scored 84 runs in boundaries with only 16 scoring strokes.
With their senior batsmen coming cropper yet another time, Mathews found a perfect ally in his deputy Lahiru Thirimanne (52 from 76 balls; 2x4, 1x6) in their 128 runs
partnership that revived Lanka's hope to return home with some pride.
Mathews started to break loose, when he hit Karn Sharma for a six over extra cover to complete his half-century from 76 balls.
The Indian bowlers suddenly looked lacklustre with Mathews hitting lusty blows and in one over the Lankan captain hit part-time bowler Ambati Rayudu for two sixes and a four as their partnership crossed 100-mark in just 134 balls.
Firing in all cylinders, Mathews second 50 came in no time as he took just 26 balls to race to his first ODI century, surpassing his previous best of 92 (against Pakistan in August).
But Mathews was left stranded at the non-striker's end as Dhawal Kulkarni bowled a fine last over in which he claimed two wickets and gave away four runs that included two wides that meant the visitors were restricted under 300.
Kulkarni was expensive but was the pick of the Indian bowlers with 3/57 while Axar Patel (2/45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2/56) took two apiece.
Opener Tillakaratne Dilshan produced a quickfire 24-ball 35 as Sri Lanka had raced to 32/1 in 4.4 overs after opting to bat only to fritter away the start.
Dilshan, who punished Kulkarni for three boundaries in the very first over, made his intentions clear at the onset.
But the lack of application from his partner Niroshan Dickwella (4), who was making his ODI debut, meant that they failed to create a foundation despite the flying start.
India, on the other hand, were sharp on the field as Rayudu lunged forward to take a diving catch which dismissed the left-hander Dickwella, who failed to read a slower one
from Kulkarni only to flick it at the fielder at square leg.
The visitors were going at a healthy run-rate of 6.85 with Dilshan firing at the other but the Sri Lankan's experiment of trying out a new combination failed with India striking for 32/1 in 4.4 overs.
Kulkarni might be expensive to start with but Binny bowled a tight line at the other end as the duo did a good job with the new ball in absence of India's pace spearhead this
series Umesh Yadav, who was rested.
Binny did not have the pace to bother Dilshan. The batsman looked at ease before the burly Karnataka all-rounder produced one that angled in as Dilshan played the wrong line to get bowled.
Dinesh Chandimal (5) looked out of sorts in the middle and struggled against the Indian spinners, who were brought in after the 12th over, before getting out to Axar Patel.
Jayawardene looked elegant as usual but could not prolong his innings before Ashwin generated a sharp turner with bounce and the Lankan could not escape but to give a thick edge to Rahane at slip.
But it was skipper Mathews who held his nerves and built their innings with his deputy Thirimanne to stage a perfect rescue act.