Sharma ton seals India win
Bulawayo - A chilly day in Africa but not for Indian cricketers as batsman Rohit Sharma hit his second century in successive matches to secure a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in a tri-nation series.
Sharma's first century was against Zimbabwe on Friday in a match which the home side won by six wickets. But his winning "double" hundred here Sunday ensured victory against old foes Sri Lanka.
Sent in to bat by India captain Suresh Raina, Sri Lanka struggled against the inexperienced Indians to reach 242 all out in 49.5 overs. This target was all too easy for India and they passed it with 39 balls to spare.
"This was one of the best innings of my career because it is never easy to chase in one-day matches," said Sharma.
"We knew we had to bounce straight back after the Zimbabwe match."
Sri Lanka captain Tillekeratne Dilshan added: "The two early run-outs cost us a lot because we felt we needed a score of at least 280 runs.
"The runs we did get were not enough for a good defence."
Now the rejuvenated Indians are back on track in the series and instead of being under pressure to survive they have the look of victors about them.
Man-of-the-match Sharma's 100 came up in exactly 100 balls. It was a race both against the light, which was generally indifferent, and also against the disappearing number of runs required for the win.
When his century was secured, India needed only a handful of runs to cross the line and his captain Raina held back for him.
Sharma hit six fours and two sixes in a faultless innings, which was not especially spectatular but of total command.
He didn't take all the limelight though. Virat Kohli weighed in with 82 before being caught on the boundary and they put on 154 for the third wicket.
Kohli needed 92 balls as he hit four fours in his seventh half century.
From a team standpoint India recovered well from their shock beating by Zimbabwe and are now back on track for a possible series winning effort.
The pressure now reverts to Sri Lanka who must beat Zimbabwe on Tuesday to put all three on level terms at the half-way stage.
Before a crowd of only about 30 at the start of play, which followed a pre-dawn thunderstorm, perhaps 800 paying spectators braved the cold wind as Sri Lanka were put into bat.
India were forced to start without Vinay Kumar who sprained an ankle playing soccer. He was replaced by Pragyan Ojha.
The Sri Lankans, who had an air of failure about them from the early overs, mostly made heavy weather of the entire innings overs, scoring at fewer than three an over after losing Upul Tharanga with only eight runs on the board.
They also suffered two runouts with the losses of Dilshan himself and Upul Tharanga.
Sri Lanka did manage to get the rate up to four by the 38th over and almost to five near the end in a bid for boundaries, but they lost all their wickets in the attempt to go further.
Dilshan forced his way to 61 off 84 balls to record his 17th half-century in 175 matches played. And Angelo Mathews weighed in with 75 in 95 balls for his fourth 50 in ODIs.
But in between there were slow scoring periods. Between the 11th and 16th overs inclusive, for instance, only 12 runs were scored.
India, on the other hand, showed no signs of the nerves they might have displayed after a first match defeat to the home side and went positively after the Sri Lanka total from the start.
Dinesh Karthik and Murali Vijay with 18 and 14 respectively showed the way with a modest but sufficient foundation and from that point on it was the Sharma-Mathews show.