In the end, victory was easily achieved, thanks to a 119-run third wicket partnership (78 balls) between Virat Kohli and Manish Pandey. At 42 for two in the sixth over, India looked in a little spot of bother. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, after a lovely start, had departed. Kohli was batting on a run-a-ball eight then. It was time for him to wrest the initiative. A delightful innings followed, strewn with seven fours and a six. A boundary off Angelo Mathews, a peach of an on-drive that didn’t allow the long-on to move, was his best. By then, even the Sri Lankan fans had started to applaud the rival captain.
The humidity was taking its toll. Kohli took his gloves off and allowed himself a mini break. He then took a fresh guard and played a thunderous bowlers’ back drive off Lasith Malinga that almost took out the umpire. The skipper fell for 82 off 54 balls, with victory all but secured. Pandey remained unbeaten on 51 off 36 as India chased down the victory target of 171 with four balls to spare.
It turned out to be a historic achievement. For the first time in a bilateral series, India completed a whitewash across three formats – 3-0 in Tests, 5-0 in ODIs and 1-0 in a one-off T20 International. Only for the second time in the history of bilateral cricket was such a feat achieved. Australia had demolished Pakistan in a similar fashion in 2009-10. But the Aussies did it on home soil.
Kohli’s brilliance apart, this game was also a testimony to the collective maturity of the young Indian spinners — the excellent Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel. Under the pump, they responded brilliantly.
A drizzle had delayed the start by 40 minutes. Kohli’s decision to field first was purely based on the rain remaining an influence on the game. The outfield was still damp when play commenced. The conditions made things difficult for the spinners. And Dilshan Munaweera took the attack to the opposition.
Niroshan Dickwella hit three consecutive fours off Jasprit Bumrah’s first over but the real contest began when Munaweera came at one drop and Chahal was called into the attack in the fourth over.
The leg-spinner offered flight, Munaweera brilliantly lofted it over deep cover for a six. Chahal tossed it up again and conceded another six. The over, however, finished with Chahal breaching Munaweera’s defence twice but hitting him high on the pad. There was already a hint of a comeback.
Patel came inside the Powerplay and was treated with disdain. Three fours ensued and then Munaweera laid into Chahal again with a six over deep cover followed by another maximum to the straight boundary and a four past short third man. Chahal had a lucky break, when TV umpire adjudged Mathews stumped based on replays that appeared inconclusive. After three overs the leggie’s figures read: 3-0-35-1. He finished with three for 43 in four overs.
Patel’s first over yielded 13 runs — three fours. When he returned for his second spell in the 11th over, the left-spinner bowled to his field. He was still a little short but no boundary scored and self-belief returned.
Yadav was the best of them all. At a time when other bowlers were leaking boundaries, he started off with just two runs in his first over. He finished his four overs with 20 runs given away and the scalps of the dangerous Munaweera and Prasanna.