Visakhapatnam: Opener Shikhar Dhawan’s blazing century and a decisive spell by their wrist spinners powered India to a series-clinching eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the third One Day International on Sunday.
Chasing 216 for victory, India rode on a 135-run partnership between Dhawan (100 not out) and Shreyas Iyer (65) to romp home in 32.1 overs in Visakhapatnam.
Dhawan completed his 12th ODI hundred in 85 balls, his knock laced with 13 fours and two sixes, before taking India to their eighth consecutive ODI series victory since June 2016.
But it was Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who set up the comprehensive victory after taking three wickets each to help restrict the visitors to 215 in 44.5 overs.
The hosts lost skipper Rohit Sharma early after he was bowled by off-spinner Akila Dananjaya for seven but it was only a minor blemish in an otherwise comfortable chase.
Iyer, who registered his second successive half-century in just his third ODI, combined with Dhawan to take the attack to the opposition bowlers.
“I feel like I’m batting my best, I know my game well now, which is why my consistency has gone up,” said Dhawan. “I’m an experienced player, I know how to handle situations, and my success rate has gone up. Most of the time I score fifty, I look to go for a century.”
Rohit Sharma, who secured his first series as India captain, added: “It was a terrific comeback after the first match. We showed a lot of character. That has been a hallmark of this team, when we have been put under pressure, we’ve responded. The first game was testing as a captain. The second game, we had enough runs, it was the perfect game for me to settle in as a captain.”
Starting with a fast-spin combination of Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya from either end, the visitors built up some early pressure only to lose steam against the in-form batsmen.
Iyer, who made 88 in the Mohali ODI, hit eight fours and a six during his 63-ball knock before falling to skipper Thisara Perera. The batsman mistimed a pull to be caught at mid-on.
The left-handed Dhawan stayed firm with Dinesh Karthik, who made 26, for company as India bounced back with two straight wins after losing the opener in Dharamsala.
Earlier Sri Lanka had got off to a strong start with opener Upul Tharanga making a 82-ball 95 after the visitors were invited to bat first.
Tharanga’s 121-ball second-wicket partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama, who made 42, was the highlight of the Sri Lankan innings that fell apart from a commanding 136-1.
Leg-spinner Chahal got Samarawickrama, who was included in the XI in place of Lahiru Thirimanne, caught at deep cover to end the stubborn stand.
The in-form Tharanga, who registered his 36th ODI fifty, kept up the pressure with an attacking innings as he passed 1,000 runs in 2017.
But Yadav checked Sri Lanka’s surge in the 28th over with a twin strike, denying Tharanga a hundred and then sending Niroshan Dickwella (8) trudging back to the pavilion.
Tharanga, who hit 12 fours and three sixes, was beaten by a tossed-up delivery from the left-arm wrist spinner and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni pulled off a sharp stumping.
Chahal soon joined in to take the key wickets of Angelo Mathews, for 17, and skipper Thisara Perera, for six, as Sri Lanka slipped to 197-6 and failed to survive their full quota of 50 overs.
Meanwhile veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga continued to be kept out of Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 squad that will play three matches against India starting Wednesday in Cuttack.
D Gunathilaka c Sharma b Bumrah 13
U Tharanga st Dhoni b Yadav 95
S Samrawickrama c Dhawan b Chahal 42
A Mathews b Chahal 17
N Dickwella c Iyer b Yadav 8
A Gunaratne c Dhoni b Kumar 17
T Perera lbw b Chahal 6
S Pathirana c Chahal b Pandya 7
A Dananjaya b Yadav 1
S Lakmal lbw b Pandya 1
N Pradeep not out 0
Extras (lb4, w4) 8
Total (all out, 44.5 overs) 215
Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-136, 3-160, 4-168, 5-189, 6-197, 7-208, 8-210, 9-211, 10-215
Bowling: Kumar 6.5-0-35-1, Bumrah 8-1-39-1, Pandya 10-1-49-2, Yadav 10-0-42-3, Chahal 10-3-46-3
India (target 216)
R Sharma b Dananjaya 7
S Dhawan not out 100
S Iyer c Lakmal b Perera 65
D Karthik not out 26
Extras (b4, lb2, w15) 21
Total (2 wickets, 32.1 overs) 219
Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-149
Bowling: Lakmal 5-2-20-0, Dananjaya 7.1-0-53-1, Mathews 3-0-30-0, Pathirana 4-0-33-0, Pradeep 3-0-10-0, Perera 5-0-25-1, Gunaratne 4-0-30-0, Gunathilaka 1-0-12-0