India start one-day series positively
A new look Indian side
, a term that we've got used to of late, took on Sri Lanka at Nagpur in the first game of the seven match series. India thrashed the Sri Lankan bowling around, well most of it anyway, to pile up 350 in 50 overs
mainly thanks to Tendulkar and Pathan's huge partnership followed by Dravid and Dhoni smacking it around.
Dravid won the toss and opted to bat. The experience during the NatWest Challenge between Australia and England earlier this year was that teams would pick a batsman as the substitute
and opt to bowl first. However, in the tri-series in Zimbabwe
, Fleming opted for Bond as the substitute and opted to bat first. Picking Murali Kartik as the substitute effectively gave the team no other option but to bat first. Or was it the other way around?
Sehwag was out fairly early for 20 after plundering Maharoof's first over. It really does befuddle me about why such a destructive batsman has become a joke in one-dayers of late
, despite his selection in the World side
which did itself proud in the Super Series one-dayers
Irfan Pathan walked in at #3, very likely a follow-up to his opening the batting in the Challenger Trophy
. He started scratchily while Tendulkar, returning from being out of action for six months
, began to unravel his vast repertoire of drives, cuts, flicks and "pushed in the 'V'" strokes. After a while though, Pathan's confidence increased, especially when the spinners were brought on. When Murali was brought on in the 12th over, Tendulkar ensured that he played Murali confidently enough to prevent the wily maestro from running through his overs. He got to his 70th one-day fifty at run-a-ball. Pathan then feasted on some atrocious bowling by the backup spinners and soon got to his fifty off just 41 balls.
Chandana's first over, the 24th of the innings, disappeared for 17 runs with Pathan belting two sixes and a four. That over ensured that Pathan overtook Tendulkar, although it wasn't too long before Tendulkar got his own back. At the thirty over stage, India were over 200 and with nine wickets in hand, a total above 350 beckoned with the two having put on over 160 runs in just 24 overs. Two things then happened. Tendulkar began to struggle with his running and Pathan played an atrocious shot to get out for a superb 84. The two factors then combined to dismiss Tendulkar a couple of balls later, caught brilliantly by Sangakkara off Maharoof who would have been pleasantly surprised to see a delivery not go for a run. Tendulkar fell just seven short of a century.
Dravid and Yuvraj, the two new batsmen at the crease put on forty at over five an over before Yuvraj was given out lbw by a trigger-happy umpire Hurryharan. Dhoni joined Dravid and for a while, it seemed as though the few quick wickets had got Sri Lanka back into the game. Vaas returned for his second spell and his over triggered the ascent of the run-rate. Dhoni and Dravid then got kicking, easily picking up 7-8 runs every over while at the same time ensuring that Murali ended up with no wickets although he conceded less than five an over.
After 45 overs, India got to 289/4 and if the last few overs were good, they could set Sri Lanka something in the region of 320-330 to chase down. Vaas was picked out again, and his 9th over disappeared for 16 runs, including sixes by both batsmen. Dravid got to his 63rd one-day fifty. In the next over, bowled by Fernando, Dhoni smacked him for six and then got out. Agarkar was run-out in the same over and the first five balls of the 49th over bowled by Maharoof suggested that India would get to around 330. Dravid edged the last ball for four. Dilhara Fernando bowled a horrible last over, conceding 18 runs (three boundaries) from it and that meant India reached 350. Dravid ended unbeaten on 86 in just 63 balls, surely one of his best one-day efforts.