India gave a perfect Christmas gift to its cricket-loving public, with a convincing seven-wicket win at the charming Eden Gardens in Kolkata, which hosted an international game after quite a while. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kolhi were the chief architects of the win, both notching up sparkling centuries. Things weren’t all that easy for India, as they lost stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar chasing a 300-plus score. However, Gambhir batted with great gumption and Kohli provided him with excellent support. The duo went about rebuilding the innings in a highly mature fashion and, in the end, India cantered home to a series victory.
Gambhir, who was due for a big score, stood up to the challenge, like he has so often done in the last 12 months. Despite losing the openers early to the pacy Suranga Lakmal, who extracted substantial bounce from the track, the southpaw saw to it that India never fell behind the required run-rate. It helped that Lakmal did not get an inch of support from the other pacemen. Lasith Malinga bowled like a debutant while the actual debutant, Thissara Perera, had a baptism by fire. If Gambhir was excellent in constructing his innings, Kolhi was equally impressive. This writer had mentioned in his earlier piece that Kolhi needed to learn from his mistakes and convert starts into substantial scores. At the Eden Gardens he did just that as the hunger to get a hundred was evident in the manner in which he went about constructing his innings.
The best part of the Kolhi-Gambhir association was that they complemented each other perfectly during their record third-wicket partnership. Both ran brilliantly between the wickets and stole a number of twos, even when the ball had not crossed the 30-yard circle. And they rotated the strike with effervescent ease. The job was made easier for the duo, as a number of boundary balls were on offer. Just like the singles and twos, they did not allow any of the opportunities to pass by. Even so, they managed to play rather risk-free cricket.
Against spinner Suraj Randiv, who was the best bowler on show for the Lankans once more, they were prepared to deal in singles. The fact that the ball did not turn owing to the dew factor meant Gambhir could easily clip the ball on the on side, unlike at Cuttack where the stroke cost him his wicket. As for Kolhi, his tendency to move across the stumps has often led to his downfall. But, on this day, there was no stopping him as he middled everything enroute to his maiden ODI hundred. That the innings came under trying circumstances with hold him in good stead for the future games.
Unlike their batting, the bowling effort was disappointing yet again. Ishant Sharma continued to flatter and deceive, Ashish Nehra bowled well only in patches and while Zaheer Khan put up a better effort, he was still not at his best. For a change, there was a significant improvement in their fielding effort. At the end of the day though, two magnificent tons were enough for India to chinch yet another ODI series win over Lanka and set off the Christmas festivities in the country.
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