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Hambantota, Sri Lanka – Virat Kohli hit a fourth century in his last five innings to help India beat Sri Lanka by 21 runs in their opening one-day international on Saturday.
Kohli's knock of 106 and a further 96 from Virender Sehwag helped India reach 314 for six after batting first. The two men shared a vital 173-run stand for the second wicket after India had got off to a poor start, going one wicket down for seven runs.
Though Kumar Sangakkara hammered a valiant 133, Sri Lanka managed only 293/9 in their 50 overs. The home side looked never in the chase except when Sangakkara and Thisara Perera, who made 44 off just 28 balls, were together.
Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav picked up two wickets each as India made a winning start to the five-match series.
Pathan, a left-arm seamer, struck early for India with his second delivery of the match, trapping the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan for six runs with the total on just nine. Sangakkara then combined with opener Upul Tharanga for a promising 77-run partnership for the second wicket.
Tharanga (28) was out next trying to cut a ball from spinner Ashwin close to his body for a catch to Sehwag at slip. A string of low scores from the top order followed with four of them combining for just 39 runs.
Sangakkara and Perera lifted Sri Lanka's hopes with a partnership of 78 runs in 53 balls, but the pair needed to score more than 11 runs an over to win the match – which proved too much to ask.
Sangakkara's dismissal by Yadav, after facing 151 balls and hit 12 boundaries, effectively sealed the match for India.
Earlier, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had won the toss and elected bat for his team's first match at Hambantota. However, it started badly when opener Gautam Gambhir was out for three runs. But Kohli and Sehwag steadied the innings and negated Sri Lanka's early advantage.
Sehwag scored his 96 off just 97 balls before being run out. He started off for a single at the non-striker's end after Kohli had played the ball, but Perera was able to hit the stumps.
Kohli was caught by substitute fielder Sachithra Senanayake off a slow delivery from seam bowler Perera.
Sri Lanka looked to be come back in the game after picking up three wickets for 48 runs, to leave India on 228/4.
However, Suresh Raina and Dhoni shared 79 runs off just 54 balls to put India on top.
Perera returned Sri Lanka's best bowling figures with 3/70, while the team's main strike bowler Lasith Malinga was expensive conceding 83 runs off his 10 overs. Nuwan Kulasekara bowled just five overs after being injured attempting a catch. – Sapa-AP