India scripted history at Galle in the series opener against Sri Lanka as they recorded the biggest away win, in terms of runs. India romped home to another victory and have gained a healthy lead of 1-0 in the three-match series with two games to go. The onus of making a comeback is now on the hosts with the series being played in their backyard. India won the contest by a huge margin of 304 runs, which is their biggest win on foreign soil (in terms of runs).
All-round performances by the team saw them achieving fruitful results and continue their winning streak in whites. Indian batsmen got the job done after which, their bowlers did well in chipping wickets to help India register an emphatic win.
The Indian skipper failed to make any impact in the first innings and was dismissed for 3 by Nuwan Pradeep. But he came out hard in the second innings and recorded his 17th Test ton to steer India to a commanding position. This was Kohli’s first Test century that came in the third innings of a Test match. His performances in the third innings have not been as dominating as it is in other innings and his average of 27.12 (excluding this innings) corroborates the belief. He now averages 31.24 in 26 third innings with a solitary century to his name. Kohli averages 46.13 in the first innings while in second and fourth he averages 68.04 and 61.41 respectively.
Kohli didn’t have a great run in the Test series against Australia at home. In three games (five innings), he scored just 46 runs at an average of 9.20. He suffered a shoulder injury in the third Test at Ranchi and was subsequently ruled out of the ultimate encounter at Dharamsala. He then failed to fire in the first innings at Galle but Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara put massive runs on the board. Although his parched runs column hardly affected his captaincy but he is a man who likes to lead by an example. He was looking for a big knock to get the momentum going, which he achieved in the third innings at Galle.
India posted 600 in the first innings and bowled out Sri Lanka for 291, further gaining a lead of 309 runs in the first innings. Kohli didn’t opt to impose the follow-on as India looked to set a big target for the hosts to chase in the fourth innings.
India lost both the centurions from the first innings early. Dilruwan Perera got rid of Shikhar Dhawan for 14 while Pujara was undone by Lahiru Kumara on 15. Virat Kohli took guard when India were 56 for 2 and got off the mark with a boundary through cover.
One of the interesting things about Kohli’s innings was running between the wickets. He sneaked singles and converted singles into doubles like he famously does in shorter formats. He rotated the strike well and kept the scoreboard ticking. Kohli played at a good strike-rate and brought up his fifty in just 68 balls, which was also his first after eight Test innings.
Kohli and Abhinav Mukund stitched 133-run partnership between. Mukund was dismissed on 81 by Danushka Gunathilaka right before the stumps with India being well placed at 189 for 3 and had gained a solid lead of 498 by then. Kohli was batting on 76 and looked good for his first third innings century.
On the fourth day, it looked like India would send the hard-hitting Hardik Pandya to bat as the lead was already close to 500 and a brisk 50 odd runs was what the visitors would have looked for. But they persisted with Ajinkya Rahane at five. Kohli was on the brink of a scintillating Test ton and did well to achieve it quickly. Kohli kept dealing in singles and doubles and smashed his first six off the innings over mid-wicket off Perera’s bowling in the 50th over. He garnered the 24 runs needed for the ton on Day 4 in just 19 balls and got to the landmark with a back-foot punch. Rahane played his part well and scored 23 off 18 as India declared at 240 for 3 and set a target of 550 for Sri Lanka.
Kohli hit only five boundaries and a solitary six in his unbeaten innings of 103 off 136 deliveries, which is a testament of how hard he ran between the wickets and kept rotating the strike. He placed his innings sensibly. Indian bowlers, especially spinners did well in picking wickets. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 245 in the fourth innings with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja picking three wickets apiece.
With this win, Kohli now has three Test victories to his name in Sri Lanka and jointly holds the record for most wins by a visiting captain alongside Ricky Ponting. With two more games to go, one can expect Kohli to register another win and add another gem to his star-studded wall. If Kohli manages to win another Test in Sri Lanka he will then become the captain to have the most number of Test wins in Sri Lanka. As of now, Kohli has rediscovered his mojo with the bat and will be the man to watch out for the upcoming games.