KOLKATA, Jan 11: Buoyed by the form of its top three batters, a clinical India will look to take an unassailable 2-0 lead when they face Sri Lanka in the second ODI here on Thursday.
Having ended his century drought for nearly three years in a T20I against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in September, Virat Kohli has not looked back since then especially in the white ball format and brought up his 73rd International century in their 67-run win in Guwahati on Tuesday.
He looked in supreme control in the first ODI in Guwahati on Tuesday and made Sri Lanka pay the price for two dropped chances to slam a back-to-back ODI hundreds that formed the backbone of India’s massive 373 for seven. It was like the Kohli of the old as he looked uncluttered and no Sri Lankan bowler troubled him.
Returning from an injury, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma too allayed any concerns whatsoever of being short on match-fitness as he took on the Lankan attack in a 67-ball 83 to set the foundation for a mammoth total. He seemed to be in his zone before coming to his favourite venue Eden Gardens.
The last time the two teams met in an ODI here, Rohit struck that world record 264 eight years back. Now here in his favourite venue as the Indian skipper, Rohit would be definitely keen to get to a big score.
That an ODI century is also eluding him since a long time — his last ODI hundred came against Australia in January 2020 would also be an added motivation.
Add young opener Shubman Gill’s splendid ODI run to Indian top three and Indian top-order looks sorted and would once again look to dominate the pedestrian Lankan attack.
Having got unflinching support from his skipper, Gill was back as opener in the ODI format at the expense of left-handed keeper-batter Ishan Kishan, a selection that copped a lot of criticism in Guwahati.
But Gill silenced all that debate with yet another aesthetic knock of 70 off just 60 balls as he continued his fine form from last year during which he has averaged 70-plus from 12 innings.
With Shreyas Iyer also coming back from a dream ODI run last year and occupying the no 4 spot with his flair for tackling spin and rotating strike in the middle overs, the only spot that may open up in the batting order is that of KL Rahul.
Rahul, who also doubles up as a wicketkeeper, has been in wretched form of late but may get a longer run especially in the series to prolong Kishan’s wait.
Mohammed Siraj continued to raise his stakes and looked terrific with the new ball in an opening spell of 5-1-15-2, laced with 25 dot balls on a flat deck at Barsapara Stadium.
On Eden’s fast deck, Siraj will relish the challenge bowling with old warhorse Mohammed Shami as it remains to be seen whether the team think tank opts for an extra seamer.
Umran Malik played the role of the enforcer in the middle overs till Dasun Shanaka took on him en route to a fine century.
The young pace gun is a work in progress and would look to improve with every match.
Skipper Dasun Shanaka has been the only silver-lining for Sri Lanka in a lopsided contest in Guwahati. From being 179/7, the premier Lankan all-rounder gave the visitors some hope with a valiant 108 not out as he would look to continue his fine form.
Taking full advantage of the dew, Shanaka took Indian bowling to cleaners but they would need a collective effort from their batters to give India any fight.
With opener Pathum Nissanka also in good form, the Lankans would look to put up a strong show with the batting.
But the biggest letdown for the Sri Lankans was their fielding as they dropped Kohli twice. They would also hope for an improved show from their bowlers especially in the powerplay where they gave a lot of width to Indian batters.
It also remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka will get the services of left-arm seamer Dilshan Madushanka who made his debut in Guwahati.
He hurt his right shoulder while fielding and coach Chris Silverwood said they are awaiting the X-ray to make sure everything is okay.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya (vc), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (c), Kusal Mendis (vc), Pathum Nissanka, Avishka Fernando, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Ashen Bandara, Maheesh Theekshana, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwanidu Fernando (ODIs), Dunith Wellalage, Pramod Madushan, Lahiru Kumara.Match starts: 1.30pm IST. (PTI)
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