Virat Kohli tore apart Sri Lankan bowling as he struck a superb century leading India to an incredible run chase at Hobart on Tuesday.
Chasing a mammoth target of 321 runs in 40 overs to keep their chances alive of making it to the finals of the CB series, India overhauled Sri Lankan total with more than 10 overs to spare and with seven wickets in hand.
The win means India can wait before embarking on a return flight to see through the result of Australia-Sri Lanka tie that will decide who faces the Kangaroos in the best of three finals of the triangular series.
Virat Kohli (133) and Suresh Raina (40) took charge after Gambhir (63) was run out in the 28th over and kept their cool to see India home.
The openers set the tone for the chase as Virender Sehwag (30) and Sachin Tendulkar (39) collected 54 runs in seven overs. Sehwag perished after attempting to hit Farveez Maharoof over mid-on as a mistimed shot ended in the safe hands of Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sachin Tendulkar looked his usual self before attempting to flick Malinga's yorker, missing it completely to be adjudged lbw. He walked away without looking at the umpire knowing his fate just as he had anticipated the yorker.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli lead the charge
Sri Lanka were hoping for a respite after removing the Indian opening pair but in-form Gautam Gambhir joined hands with Virat Kohli to lead the charge upfront. Together they struck a century partnership-a first for India in the series-maintaining a steady rate of eight runs per over.
Gauti made a brisk start to his innings hitting four boundaries off the first twelve deliveries he faced. He picked up gaps perfectly even as he flirted one towards the slip cordon for a boundary that had cost him his wicket on previous occasions as well in the series.
Virat on the other hand played steadily, rotating the strike while finding gaps to steal a boundary or two. He saved his best for the late as he mauled Lasith Malinga for 24 runs in the 35th over leaving Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene stunned. India never looked out of sight even when they were to score at high run rate successfully maintaining it throughout the chase. It was a pity that a few thousand spectators turned out to witness the ODI at Bellerive Oval that saw a rampaging Kohli taking bowlers to the cleaners.
The stand lasted for 115 runs as Gambhir was caught short of his crease when a charging Dinesh Chandimal fired a throw from deep midwicket ending his innings at 63.
It was fitting that the winning runs came off two consecutive boundaries plundered in Malinga's over to end the nightmare for the slinger as he leaked 96 runs in 7.4 overs.
Virat Kohli rises to the occasion
It is not that Virat Kohli suddenly pulled out a rabbit from his hat and blasted his way to 133 runs. On previous occasions in the series he did have promising starts before finding a way to gift his wicket to the opposition. But on a day when India needed to chase a total in excess of 300 runs under 40 overs, he didn't gave in to the temptation of hitting everything out of the park. Rather, he played a waiting game without slowing down his scoring before hitting Kulasekara for three consecutive boundaries in the 31st over.
His first fifty came in 44 balls while his second came in even lesser deliveries (32). By the time he drove India to safe havens, he had amassed 16 boundaries and two sixes. Certainly, his best came when it was needed the most.
Earlier, Tillakaratne Dilshan equaled his highest ODI score (160*) as he plundered the Indian bowling attack for a century to propel them to 320/4 in the Hobart ODI on Tuesday.
Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan opened up the innings for Sri Lanka and started off the proceedings in a steady manner building a partnership of 49 runs in 12 overs. Jayawardene was more forthcoming of the two as he charged down the track to hit Zaheer for a boundary and a six in his successive overs. He perished after attempting a cheeky late cut off Ravindra Jadeja to be caught sharply by Sehwag at slips.
His fall brought Kumara Sangakkara to the crease and he pitched tent firmly till the 44th over milking Indian bowlers for runs, finally getting to three figures after some promising starts in the previous matches of the series.
His partner, Dilshan, showed a different side of his batting as he continued his restrained innings from the beginning to end up notching his 11th ODI century-fourth against India. Scored at a strike rate of 97, he hit 11 boundaries and the first of the two sixes he hit came only in the 47th over off Umesh Yadav's bowling.
Ordinary show from the bowlers
The match certainly proved out to be a nightmare for the bowlers especially for the Sri Lankan's as the batsmen dominated the proceedings.
Earlier, the duo of Sanga and Dilshan combined to build an enormous partnership of exactly 200 runs without any trouble highlighting the abysmal Indian bowling that lacked any venom.
MS Dhoni had to call Suresh Raina to bowl the final over of the Sri Lankan innings. Not that he had bowled out his frontline bowlers – Zaheer and Praveen had one over left and Yadav two. The only bowler who completed his full quota was R Ashwin, whereas the pacers were milked for plenty. Khan was hammered for 61, Praveen for 64 and Yadav for 56 runs by the Lankan batsmen. Raina was bowling fine but was not spared from the wrath of centurion Dilshan who launched his penultimate delivery for a six towards mid-wicket. The over yielded 10 runs.
At the end of the day, when over 600 runs were scored, World Champion Indian team showed their class and once again showed the importance of a positive opening partnership. The top order came all guns firing that otherwise has been the prime reason of their downfall in the series. However, the fate of Indian team now rests on the final league match between Australia and Sri Lankan on Friday. MS Dhoni said his team would be shopping rather than being hooked to their TV sets to see the outcome. His mind though would be focused on the result no matter even if he skips the match for reveling.