By Sirshendu Panth
Kolkata, Nov 13;
Stylish Rohit Sharma authored a dream return to big-time cricket by cracking a world record individual score of 264 as India toyed with a hapless Sri Lanka to register an emphatic 153-run win in the fourth One-Day International (ODI) match at the Eden Gardens here Thursday.
The 27-year-old Sharma, who had to pull out midway into the England tour in August following a finger injury, scripted one of the biggest comeback celebrations the game has ever seen to propel the hosts to a mammoth 404/5 before 30,000-odd mesmerised fans at the majestic Eden Gardens that completed 150 years.
Needing to score at a daunting 8.1 runs per over to upstage India, the visitors never came anywhere close to accepting the challenge and were bundled out for only 251 in 43.1 overs, as the home side took a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.
In fact, the entire Sri Lankan team scored 13 less than Sharma, who is now the only batsman to score two ODI double hundreds – having plundered 206 against Australia last November in Bengaluru. He is also surpassed Virender Sehwag’s 219, the existing highest ODI score.
The Sri Lankan reply started off on a poor note, as they lost opener Kusal Perera (0) without any runs on the board in the very first over.
The islanders suffered further jolts with Dinesh Chandimal (9), Mahela Jayawardene (2) and Tilakratne Dilshan (34; 33b, 6×4) departing by the tenth over.
At 48/4, the tourists needed a miracle to make the game competitive.
Skipper Angelo Mathews (75; 68b, 9×4, 1×6) and Lahiru Thirmanne (59, 69b, 7×4, 1×6) put on 118 for the fifth wicket, but that was too little and too late, and only provided some respectability to the islanders’ innings.
There was another 50-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Thirmanne and Thisara Perera (29), but once they left, wickets fell at regular intervals and it was all over with 6.5 overs yet to be bowled.
For India, Dhawal Kulkarni (4/34) ran through the middle order.
In the 47th over, Sharma hit Shaminda Eranga over long-on to surpass Sehwag’s 219, the existing highest ODI score.
Opening with Ajinkya Rahane, Sharma propelled the Indians to Eden’s biggest total, as he scored the lion’s share of the 155-ball, 202-run stand with skipper Virat Kohli (66; 64 b, 6×4) for the third wicket. He added another 128 with Robin Uthappa (16) for the fifth wicket.
Already 3-0 down in the series, the Sri Lankans continued their poor show. While the bowlers were rendered chicken fodder for Sharma, the fielders also joined in the pathetic show giving three reprieves to the Mumbaikar.
He was dropped at four by Thisara Perera, enjoyed another life by Seekkuge Prasanna after completing his double ton, and Lahiru Thirimanne let go another chance with the batsman on 222.
Notwithstanding the charmed life, the crowd savoured all the thrills and enjoyment, incessantly capturing Sharma’s heroics with their cameras.
Opening the innings after skipper Virat Kohli opted to bat first, Rahane (28) instantly threw the gauntlet plundering three boundaries with sublime timing and touch artistry.
While Rahane’s aggressive knock came to an end in the eighth over, Ambati Rayudu (8) did not last long and was bowled by Eranga.
The dismissal brought in Kohli who joined Sharma in clinically decimating the islanders.
Sharma reached his run-a-ball 100 pushing Eranga to the square leg and scampered down the pitch holding his arms high before going down on his knees to accept the thunderous applause from the crowd.
An unstoppable Sharma needed only 73 balls to score the remaining 164 runs.
He reached 200 in the 46th over before hitting Shaminda Eranga over long-on in the next over to overtake Sehwag’s 219.
Curtains came down on Sharma’s essay in the final ball of the innings with Mahela Jayawardene taking a straight catch at long off.
Sharma’s team members had lined up on the balcony of the dressing room to watch his 200. Now as he returned to the hut, they came out and stood outside the dressing room to give him a guard of honour, a just peer acknowledgement for an innings that will be talked of in glowing terms for long.