Men’s ODI WC: Gill, Kohli, Iyer fifties help India post 357/8 against Sri Lanka

Mumbai, Nov 2 (IANS) Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer struck superb half-centuries to help India post 357/8 against Sri Lanka, despite a fifer for left-arm pacer Dilshan Madushanka (5-80), in Match 33 of the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup 2023 at the Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday.

Gill struck a run-a-ball 92, Kohli scored a well-compiled 94-ball 88 and Iyer hammered a 56-ball 82 and though all three failed to get their centuries, they managed to help India reach a big score on a typical Wankhede batting track after Sri Lanka skipper Kusal Mendis asked India to bat first.

Sri Lanka got an early breakthrough but could not capitalise on it due to inconsistent bowling, dropped catches and bad fielding.

Gill and Kohli raised a crucial 189-run partnership for the second wicket after skipper Rohit Sharma was out for four off the second ball of the innings, while Iyer shared two half-century partnerships with KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja lower down the order, setting Sri Lanka a big target to chase.

Kohli came into the bat in the first over of the match after Rohit Sharma was out to the second ball he faced. After hitting Dilshan Madushanka for a four off his pads past the leg gully on the first ball of the match, Rohit played at a full delivery expecting an inswinger but the bat nipped away instead and disrupted the woodwork. Kohli continued the scoring rate by flicking Madhusanka off his pads to the boundary off the last ball of the over.

Kohli and Gill, who was dropped at nine by Madushanka off his bowling in the fifth over, rescued India with a superb partnership of 189 runs, playing cautiously initially but never failing to punish the poor deliveries of which the Sri Lankans bowled quite a few. They struck boundaries at regular intervals as India ended the first Powerplay at 60/1.

Kolhi survived a chance when Chameera dropped a return catch after getting his hand to the uppish driver and juggling it a couple of times. There were also a couple of deliveries that went past the bat very close to the stumps.

There was another close call when the ball failed to carry to the leg gully fielder. However, after the initial period of struggle, the former India captain mostly played in the V, judging the length well and always remaining in control of his shorts. He flicked the ball off his pads when the Sri Lankans strayed down the legside, slog-swept on a couple of occasions and even executed a well-controlled pull shot when the medium pacer dug in short. Kohli had fallen a few times recently to the pull shot but on Thursday, he was well in control of the shot, trying to play it safe rather than thrash it to the boundary. The standout hits in his knock were a straight drive off Madushanka for a superb four in the 16th over and boundaries on successive deliveries off Rajitha, the first one a superb drive to mid-off and the second a glance to the left of the keeper. He struck 11 fours in all his 94-ball 88 reaching his 70th half-century — the fourth of World Cup 2023 — but failing to go all the way to his 49th hundred.

Just when it looked like the former India captain would get his second century of the World Cup, Kohli drove early and uppishly to an off-cutter by Madushanka and was caught by Pathum Nissanka at short-cover.

Gill, on the other hand, was all power as he scored a run-a-ball 92, hitting Madushanka for successive fours in the fifth over, a pull to midwicket and a punch past point. A cut to point fence off Angelo Mathews was followed by a crunch through covers to another short one by Rajitha. A crisp flick through square leg off Theekshana and six each off Chameera, a short-arm pull over midwicket, and a step down the track to launch leggie Dushan Hemantha into the sightscreen.

Gill completed his fifty off 55 balls and picked up the scoring after that as he and Kohli helped India past the 150-run mark as they set the platform for a big score.

Gill fell eight short off his seventh ODI hundred when he tried to ramp a Madushanka off-cutter but knicked it behind to Mendis, cramped for space as the bowler dug it short. Gill and Kohli fell within three runs.

However, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul kept up the scoring as they raised 60 runs for the fourth wicket and helped India past the 250-run mark. Though Rahul was out for 21 and Suryakumar Yadav failed to capitalise on another opportunity and got out for 12 edging behind Madushanka, Shreyas Iyer struck a superb half-century, his second fifty of the World Cup after an unbeaten 53 against Pakistan at Ahmedabad.

Iyer kept the scoring rate up as he struck a few sweetly-timed boundaries and hammered Hemantha straight over his head for a big six and followed it up with a 106-metre monster off Rajitha a couple of overs later in the 36th. The third six in his half-century came off Theekshana, blasting him down the ground, completing his half-century off 36 balls with a four off Theekshana.

Back-to-back sixes off Madushanka in the 48th over by Iyer brought up the half-century of his sixth wicket partnership with Ravindra Jadeja. But Madushanka had his revenge a wide ball later when he bowled a wide and slower one and Iyer sliced it straight up to extra cover off the tow-end of his bat. His brilliant innings of 82 off 56 balls, put India within sniffing distance of the 350 mark. India lost a couple of wickets to run-outs in the last over but managed to post a defendable total.

Madushanka completed a well-deserved five-wicket haul, becoming the highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with 17 wickets so far as he went past Adam Zampa, ending with figures of 5-80 off his 10 overs.

Brief scores:

India 357/8 in 50 overs (Shubman Gill 92, Virat Kohli 88, Shreyas Iyer 82, Ravindra Jadeja 35; Madushanka 5-80) against Sri Lanka. – IANS

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