India were clear favourites when the impromptu ODI series against Sri Lanka was announced after West Indies left India early. Sri Lanka’s last international game was against Pakistan in August and they were given no time to prepare for the series. In the lead up, both Angelo Matthews and Kumar Sangakkara were clear about their distaste for the spontaneous series and lack of practice. They, alongside the new head coach tried to dial down the importance of the tour but the margins by which India have won the first few games could have an effect on the Sri Lankans in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Even though Sri Lanka were missing both Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath, the warm-up game against India A was expected to be a little more competitive than it turned out to be. Neither of India’s openers played including the in-form Ajinkya Rahane and both Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli did not play. This would have been the perfect chance for Sri Lanka to get a feel for the Indians and build up some confidence before facing a team that had just beaten England and West Indies.
The Indian batsmen pummeled the Sri Lankan bowlers with the first wicket falling for 96 and the second falling for a colossal 310. Rohit Sharma scored 142, Manish Pandey scored an unbeaten 135 and along with the help of Unmukt Chand who scored a half century, India posted 382. The batsmen appeared unfazed by the SL bowlers and both Sharma and Pandey made their case for being included in the 2015 WC XI.
Apart from Upul Tharanga who scored 76, none of the other Sri Lankan batsmen made a significant contribution to their total. Considering their lack of practice, they did very well to reach 294, a score that would more often than not result in a win during a chase but their bowling left them too huge a target and so Matthews’ men fell short by 88 runs.
The first ODI was going to be even more of a task for the SL bowlers with Rahane on form and Virat Kohli coming off a century against West Indies. India’s openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rahane both scored centuries and put on an incredible opening stand of 231 runs. This was the second highest Indian opening partnership against Sri Lanka and third overall. Their innings was incredible but could have been stopped early in it’s tracks. Kumar Sangakkara dropped two regulation catches off the openers before they had reached half centuries. The poor performance by such a high achieving man showed the true rustiness of the Sri Lankan team.
Virat Kohli was appointed captain for the series and made a great call in putting Suresh Raina in at no.3 to keep the momentum of the game going after Dhawan fell for 113. Raina went on to score 52 and India ended on another mammoth total of 363.
Sri Lanka’s batting appeared even worse during this game, only Mahela Jayawardene looked in touch playing some great shots. Ishant Sharma picked up four wickets for 34 runs, his best ODI figures to date and Sri Lanka were bowled out for 194. The Indians were missing Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and so would have been very happy with the performance from the pace bowlers.
The second ODI appeared to be dragging the series down the same road that six out of the seven previous head-to-head ODI series’ between the two have gone. Only once have Sri Lanka drawn an ODI series against India in the past 10 years and never have they won one.
The ODI began badly for the visitors as wickets fell frequently until a great fourth-wicket partnership between Angelo Matthews and Kumar Sangakkara helped them get back on track. No one else in the team made a significant contribution to the total but Sri Lanka were still able to muster a decent total of 274. However it appeared nothing could stop the hosts, if it wasn’t Rahane scoring the century it was someone else. Ambati Rayudu appeared to want in on the action as he scored an unbeaten maiden century. He, with the help of Dhawan and Kohli helped India ease to their second win of the series so far.
I hope the series improves over the next few games and that Sri Lanka are better prepared for the World Cup. It would be phenomenal to watch another India v. Sri Lanka final after the results of the 2011 ODI and 2014 T20 World Cup.
I feel I must mention Pakistan and their incredible dominance over Australia in the two tests after having lost all three ODIs. Not just by small margins either, a first test win of 221 runs followed by an even more comprehensive 356 run win. An in form Pakistan and India will mean an incredibly exciting group stage match in Adelaide in Feb 2015. One which I eagerly await!