Posted by Gareth Parry Added on: July 21 2012
India 314 for 6 (Kohli 106, Sehwag 96) beat Sri Lanka 293 for 9 (Sangakkara 133, Irfan 2-37, Ashwin 2-46) by 21 runs
The opening ODI of India's tour to Sri Lanka was the first competitive game for the Indians since the Asia cup in March. After the IPL; many of the Indian regularstook a prolonged rest in preparation for a gruelling schedule in the coming 12 months. By stark contrast Sri Lanka came into this series having hosted Pakistan and won hard fought ODI and Test series.
The wicket in Hambantota looked to be a good one for batting on and Dhoni, having won the toss, duly elected to bat first. There was a fear that, having had nearly two months off, the Indian batsmen would struggle in the first match of the series. This looked to be the case in the early exchanges with Sehwag lobbing an easy chance, which was dropped, to point and Gambhir falling, bowled around his legs, in just the third over.
Kohli, who joined Sehwag, also looked out of touch early on as the Indian batsmen continued to offer chances to the Sri Lankans. One of those chances was the main moment of controversy in the innings with Sehwag looping the ball to Kulasekara at mid off. The Sri Lankan man dived forward to take what looked like a clean catch. Unfortunately it was one of those instances where the foreshortening effect of the television cameras cast doubt on whether the catch was clean and despite the fielders vocal claims that it was a catch the third umpire had little choice but to give Sehwag the benefit of the doubt. In addition to a harsh decision from the umpire Sri Lanka also lost Kulasekara to injury, with the Sri Lankan man appearing to strain his groin when taking the catch. When Kohli was dropped by the bowler just two balls later India will have felt that it was their day.
Sehwag and Kohli made the most of the reprieves they were given to go on and put on a partnership of 173. Both men shook off their early poor form to show why India's batting line-up is one of the most feared in international cricket. They scored virtually at will with all of the Sri Lankan bowlers powerless to restrict the run rate. A measure of their confidence was the fact that they elected to take the batting powerplay in just the 17th over. Sehwag fell for 96 in the 32nd over, run out by a some superb work from Perera off his own bowling, just short of a well deserved century but with India well placed at 180 for 2.
Unlike Sehwag; Kohli reached his 12th ODI century as he continued to punish the Sri Lankan bowlers. Even the wickets of Sharma and then Kohli, who finished with 106, did little to slow the Indian scoring with Raina and Dhoni combining to add 89 for the fifth wicket in just 9.1 overs. Raina reached 50 in his stand with his captain and their contribution took India to a formidable total of 314.
Perera, who picked up three wickets, along with the spin of Herath were the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers. However all of the home sides bowlers will look to improve in the remaining matches in the series.
Having set a target of 315 for the home side India were strong favourites to win the match. When Dilshan fell in just the second over the visitors were on their way to victory.
Sri Lanka, lead by Sangakkara briefly threatened to make it a close contest as he and Tharanga put on 77 runs for the second wicket. However the Indian spinners, in particular the excellent Ashwin, put paid to the home sides chase as the wearing surface started to offer significant assistance to the slower bowlers. Ashwin finished with figures of 10-1-46-2 as the Indians picked up regular wickets to leave Sri Lanka at 203 for 6 with 10 overs left.
With 112 need the home side were never likely to reach the target but Perera backed up his 3 wickets with an excellent cameo with the bat. He scored at nearly 2 runs a ball on his way to 44 runs from just 28 deliveries as he and Sangakkara kept the contest alive. Sangakkara passed his hundred in their partnership of 78 and whilst they were still at the crease the home side had a slim chance of victory.
However the Indian pace bowlers were tremendous in the final overs. Yadav and Pathan were particularly impressive with Yadav bowling Sangakkara, who finished on 133, out in the 48th over to virtually end the match as a contest. When Pathan picked up Perera in the next over, on his way to figures of 10-1-37-2, the Sri Lankans hopes were gone.
In the end Malinga and Kulasekara were left to hit some lusty blows to reduce the Indian margin of victory to just 21 runs but ultimately, in spite of some brief flashes of hope, the match had been over long before the end of the second innings.