Ranchi: Skipper Virat Kohli's calm presence through his 21st ODI century and another successful chase overshadowed his counterpart Angelo Mathews' maiden ODI century as India posted a three-wicket victory over Sri Lanka here on Sunday to complete a 5-0 whitewash in the five-match series, hastily-arranged after an unprecedented pull out by the West Indies.
Mathews (139 not out, 116 balls, six fours, 10 sixes) played a blinder in the final 15 overs of the Sri Lanka innings and helped his team double their score, but Kohli (139 not out, 126 balls, 12 fours, three sixes) nonchalantly masterminded the team's chase of a none too easy target of 287 on a pitch that wasn't as flat as the others in the last four ODIs.
The early fall of openers Ajinkya Rahane (2) and Rohit Sharma (9), who made a world record 264 in the fourth ODI at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, did not deter the Indian chase. Even the tragicomic run out of Ambati Rayudu (59, 69 balls, eight fours, one six) after a 136-run stand did not come in the way of Kohli's eagerness to take India to their first clean sweep against Sri Lanka in an ODI series.
For that matter, the recklessness with which Robin Uthappa (19), debutant Kedar Jadhav (20) and Stuart Binny (12) gifted their wickets to Ajantha Mendis (4/73) and the fact that Kohli got to face only 20 deliveries in the 10-over spell beginning the 31st over did not ruffle the Indian skipper's demeanour, but that left him with a young Akshar Patel and a stern test at the business end of the game.
Kohli took on Mendis with some clean blows in front of the wicket not only to spoil his analysis considerably but also to make a powerful statement of his intent. There was no hint of panic as the target was hunted down with diligence and a sense of purpose. If he needed to play an innings that established him as a leader, this was it.
Sri Lanka could have ended up with a larger total - possible in excess of 300 - had Tillakaratne Dilshan not been deceived by Binny's slower delivery after making a breezy 35. It must be said that Binny, who showed no signs of being disturbed by inadvertent mention of his name in legal circles, was not pressed to bowl his quota of 10 overs.
When Dinesh Chandimal's stroke-less struggle at the crease ended with a skied catch off left-arm spinner Patel and the crafty Mahela Jayawardena could not weave out of an Ravichandran Ashwin off-break that ended up in the hands of Rahane at slips, it did look like the Indian spinners would secure a stranglehold on the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Mathews and left-handed Lahiru Thirimanne came together in partnership of 128 runs for the fifth wicket in a bit more than 26 overs, stringing the stand with the strong threads of grit and patience. They handled the threat of the legspinner Karn Sharma in exemplary fashion, playing him watchfully over his first seven overs but smacking him for 34 runs in his final three.
Mathews led the way, opening up in the last 15 overs of the innings as he moved from 36 off 63 deliveries to finish with 139 off 116 balls. The loss of Thirimanne (52) and Thisara Perera in quick succession did not impact the Sri Lanka skipper's quest to finish strong, lead his team to their best total of the series and pose India their stiffest challenge in five games.
Mathews did all he could - minutes after the Sri Lanka innings, he returned to prise out the Indian openers with the new ball, flung himself to get his hands under a catch offered by Uthappa, encouraged his bowlers with innovative fields - but he could not stop the master of the chase in Indian conditions, the man answering to the call of Virat Kohli.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 286/8 (Mathews 139*, Thirimanne 52; Kulkarni 3/57) lost to India288/7 (Kohli 139*, Rayudu 59) by three wickets