After two fruitless months in Australia, India decided to free their minds ahead of what could have been their last game of the tour. And it worked.
Nobody at the Bellerive Oval gave them a chance of chasing down Sri Lanka’s gargantuan 320 for four, let alone doing it in less than 40 overs to earn the bonus point and keep alive their hopes of making it to the finals.
However, the Men in Blue did it in style thanks to Virat Kohli, who blasted an unbeaten 133 off 86 balls. With cameos from the other four specialist batsmen, India did the unthinkable by achieving the target off just 36.4 overs.
The victory meant India will prolong their tour by at least three days. But if Australia beat Sri Lanka in the last league tie of the CB Series in Melbourne on Friday, it will be India who will face the hosts in the best-of-three finals.Victory with a bonus was the only way for India to stay alive and it didn’t come as a surprise when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni put Sri Lanka in to bat. However, once Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara had feasted on the Indian attack, it looked near-impossible that they would knock off the required 321 runs in 40 overs to earn the bonus point.
A quickfire opening stand was imperative and Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar did just that.
By the time Sehwag holed out to Dilshan at mid-on in the seventh over, the total was already 54 runs. Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir maintained the momentum until Tendulkar was trapped plumb in front trying to flick a Lasith Malinga yorker.
Instead of going for the kill by persisting with Malinga, who had changed ends after being taken for runs in his first three overs, skipper Mahela Jayawardene chose to hold him back for the late burst. And that is where India turned the tide in their favour as Gambhir and Kohli batted sensibly.
After 20 overs, the third wicket pair had taken the total to 160 for two, maintaining the required run rate of eight. With 161 required off the next 20 overs, which included 10 Powerplay overs as Jayawardene had delayed the bowling Powerplay - it effectively turned into a Twenty20 game.
And once Kohli launched an assault on Malinga and Suresh Raina finally put a price on his wicket, it was clear India would not have to take the flight back home on Wednesday.
Kohli was so ferocious that the last 30 balls he faced produced 71 runs. And the 35th over, bowled by Malinga, sealed the deal for India.
Kohli started off with a brace that fetched him his ninth ODI century and followed it up with a six and four boundaries to help India cross 300.