HOBART, Feb 28 (PTI): Virat Kohli blasted an unbeaten 133 as India snatched an incredible victory against Sri Lanka by chasing down a mammoth 321 in only 36.4 overs to rekindle their hopes of making it to the final of the cricket tri-series, here today.
Needing to win the crucial game in 40 overs in order to get a bonus point and stay afloat, the beleaguered Indians pulled off a sensational victory when it mattered the most riding on Kohli�s breathtaking assault and useful contributions from all the other top-order batsmen.
Put into bat, Sri Lanka posted a mammoth 320 built around Tillekaratne Dilshan�s career-best 160 not out and Kumar Sangakkara�s 105 but Indians left the islanders stunned by achieving the target with 80 balls to spare and more importantly inside the required 40 overs. They maintained an unbelievable run-rate of 8.75 runs per over throughout the chase.
Kohli smashed 16 boundaries and two sixes during his whirlwind 86-ball knock. He completed his ninth ODI ton and his second against Sri Lanka in 76 balls.
India will now have to await the result of the last league match between Australia and Sri Lanka to know their fate. They will qualify to the finals only if Australia beat Sri Lanka in the last league game.
Australia, who are already through to the finals are leading the table with 19 points while Sri Lanka and India are tied on 15 points with the latter having completed their league engagements.
Much as Kohli deserves to be applauded, no less critical roles were played by openers Virender Sehwag (30, 16 balls, 5x4, 1x6) and Sachin Tendulkar (39, 30 balls, 5x4) as well as the two subsequent batsmen, Gautam Gambhir (63, 64 balls, 4x4) and Suresh Raina (40, 24 balls, 3x4, 1x6).
Kohli shared two century stands � 115 runs off 109 balls with Gambhir and then of 120 from only 55 balls with Raina.
India always kept themselves in tune with the required run-rate of eight per over, reaching 160/2 in 20 overs; being 230/3 in the 30th over and the final 91 runs came off only 40 balls.
Sehwag and Tendulkar began belligerently and 50 runs came in the first six overs itself. The floodgates opened in the second over from Kulasekara when Sehwag lofted him over mid-off. Sehwag then square drove the medium-pacer and didn�t spare Lasith Malinga either. Twice bludgeoning him past midwicket and once lofting him over square leg for a six.
Tendulkar wasn�t a slouch either. He twice square drove Kulasekara to fence and once smashing Malinga through covers.
The introduction of Ferveez Maharoof cost India their first wicket. Sehwag once pulled him over mid-on for four but in trying to do an encore, he was caught by Dilshan for 30 runs. Sehwag faced only 16 balls and faced five fours and a six.
Tendulkar, at the other end, still looked to attack, lofting Maharoof and Malinga for a four each. But in order to glide a stump-delivery from Malinga past fine leg, he was adjudged leg before wicket by umpire Simon Taufel.
With a licence to go for their shots, Gautam Gambhir too lost little time in attacking the bowlers. He slashed Kulasekara past point and then walked out to lift him between mid-on and midwicket. He once edged Malinga between slips for four as the 100 of the innings was up in the 11th over.
The next few overs were one of consolidation. Gambhir and Kohli rotated the strikes at will and there were a few boundary hits to go with it.
Sri Lanka delayed the bowling Powerplay but India�s run-rate was unaffected. The 150 of the innings came in the 19th over with a massive six over mid-off by Kohli against Angelo Mathews. India were 160 for 2 after 20 overs, requiring exactly the same equation in the final 20 overs.
Gambhir soon completed his half century off 47 balls with five fours. Kohli completed his own in the next over, made off 44 balls with three fours and a six.
The century stand between the two came in the 25th over. India now needed 131 runs from 15 overs, to claim the bonus point. The batting Powerplay was claimed in the 28th over, India being 199 for 2 at this stage. India lost Gambhir at this stage, run out for 63 off 64 balls with four fours. India�s scoring had dropped between 25th and 29th over when only 24 runs came from four overs.
The 30th over, bowled by Lasith Malinga, again brought a spurt in scoring. Fifteen runs came off this over and India now needed 91 runs from the final 10 overs with seven wickets in hand. Next over from Kulasekara yielded 18 runs, including four fours, and India were now sprinting towards victory with bonus point. The bowling Powerplay yielded 58 runs.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene c Sehwag b Jadeja 22, Tillakaratne Dilshan not out 160, Kumar Sangakkara b Praveen Kumar 105, Thisara Perera run out 3, Angelo Mathews c Ashwin b Khan 14, Dinesh Chandimal not out 2. Extras: (B-3, W-11) 14. Total: (for 4 wkts in 50 overs) 320. Fall of wickets: 1-49, 2-249, 3-279, 4-309. Bowling: Zaheer 9-0-61-1, Praveen 9-0-64-1, Umesh 8-0-56-0, Jadeja 9-0-43-1, Ashwin 10-0-52-0, Sehwag 3-0-24-0, Raina 2-0-17-0.
India: Virender Sehwag c Dilshan b Maharoof 30, Sachin Tendulkar lbw b Malinga 39, Gautam Gambhir run out 63, Virat Kohli not out 133, Suresh Raina not out 40. Extras: (B-4, LB-6, W-6) 16. Total: (For 3 wkts in 36.4 overs) 321. Fall of wickets: 1-54, 2-86, 3-201. Bowling: Malinga 7.4-0-96-1, Kulasekara 8-0-71-0, Maharoof 3-0-21-1, Perera 7-0-59-0, Mathews 7-0-44-0, Herath 4-0-20-0.