India recorded its highest ever total in One Day Cricket – 414 for 7 in the first ODI at Rajkot but little did anyone expect that Sri Lanka would end up three runs short of that! Infact most part of their chase, Sri Lanka were cruising through the monstrous target of 415 and in the end victory seemed to be against all the odds for the hosts! The first ODI saw two cracking centuries from Sehwag and Dilshan on what was probably the flattest pitch ever.
Put into bat first by SL, India got to a terrific start through Sehwag and Tendulkar. Sehwag after a slightly cautious start freed his arms to go big and Sachin followed him with some flat hits straight down the ground. When Tendulkar got cleaned up by a Dilhara inswinger that kept low, India had raced away past 150 in the 20th over itself. Sachin played second fiddle scoring 69 (from 63 balls with 10 fours and a six) which was his 92nd ODI fifty.
MS Dhoni walked in at no.3 with a readymade platform. The Indian Skipper instead of playing himself in went for his hard hitting shots which made Sehwag relax for a while and yet keep the tempo very high. Sehwag after a long time got to his 12th ODI hundred which came in 66 balls. Viru equalled Suresh Raina’s century against Hong Kong which is the second fastest century by an India after Azharuddin’s 62-ball hundred. By the second drinks interval, India muscled to 280 for 1 in 32 overs with Sehwag on 136 and Dhoni smashing a quick fifty in 34 balls.
India took the batting powerplay in the 35th over and that brought the much needed breaks for the Lankans. First Sehwag departed after getting a leading edge to point and then Dhoni followed him caught at covers off a slower one from Dilhara. Sehwag finished with 146 (from 102 balls with 17 fours and half a dozen sixes) while Dhoni got 72 (from 53 balls with 7 fours and 3 sixes). The two batsmen put on 156 for the second wicket in just 16 overs!
With Yuvraj Singh missing out the game, Sri Lanka could get in some quiet overs in and a few wickets here and there to stop India from running away towards a score of 500. Towards the end, India had to settle at 414 for 7 thanks to useful cameos from Virat Kohli (27 from 19) and Ravindra Jadeja (30* from 17 balls). India went past their previous highest total which was against Bermuda by one run in the final ball of the innings. As many as 43 fours and a dozen sixes were scored by the hosts. Jayasuriya suffered the most going for 76 in his 7 overs.
India had an opportunity to take an early wicket but a sitter put down by Virat Kohli allowed Upul Tharanga to complement Dilshan in a big opening stand. The pitch only got better and better and the batsmen could hit through the line without any worries. Dilshan played some spanking drives to motor the scoreboard and Tharanga lofted the ball sweetly towards the sightscreen to set up the chase for Lanka. It was only in the 24th over that the hosts could find their much needed breakthrough when Tharanga stepped out too soon to get stumped out down the legside off part-timer Suresh Raina. Tharanga scored 67 (from 60 balls with 3 fours and 4 sixes) in an opening partnership of 188.
Dilshan who scored his 4th ODI hundred in 73 balls was allowed to take the backseat for a while as the inform Sangakkara walked in to play a breezy knock. Fours and sixes flew off the left hander’s blade effortlessly and in just few minutes of batting, Sanga raced away to his fifty in just the 24 balls! Like the Indian innings, it was the batting powerplay that caused the downfall for the Lankans when it was taken in 36th over. Sangakkara going for a big pull off Praveen Kumar miscued it to get caught at deep squareleg. The Lankan Captain scored an amazing 90 in just 43 balls with 10 fours and 5 sixes in a 2nd wicket stand of 128 in a little under 13 overs.
The hosts got two quick wickets after Sanga’s exit which brought them back into the game, both of them were taken by Harbhajan Singh. First Sanath Jayasuriya got foxed in the air after leaving the crease to get stumped in the 38th over. In the next over came the biggest wicket of the match when Dilshan too jumped out of the crease and missed the line of the ball in a big shot over the infield to lose his off stump. Like Sehwag, Dilshan too missed out on a double century with plenty of overs left in the innings. He made 160 from 124 balls with 20 fours and 3 sixes.
When Dilshan got out, Sri Lanka were left with 77 to get from nearly 11 overs. Former Skipper Mahela Jayawardene helped India’s cause with a suicidal run out to leave them as favourites. Sri Lanka’s chances were gone but the ever so cool Thilina Kandamby combined with Angelo Mathews to turn the heat again on India. The two batsmen took Sri Lanka in touching distance before Kandamby (24 from 25 balls) did a Arjuna Ranatunga to get run out in the 49th over with his team needing 14 to get from 10 balls. The last ball of that over saw Samaraweera get run out and defy the strike for Mathews at the start of the final over.
Sri Lanka needed 11 to get from 6 balls from the last over bowled by Ashish Nehra. Mathews took them very close with two 2s to reduce the equation to 6 from 3. Nehra bowled a full toss in the fourth ball of the over which Mathews (38 from 33 balls) whacked across meatily but was caught by Tendulkar at mid wicket who timed his jump perfectly to clinch the game! Sri Lanka needing 6 from 2 could only get two more runs to end up with 411 for 8. The SL innings contained 37 fours and 12 sixes to take the match tally to 80 fours and 24 sixes!
It was a good job in the end from the experienced duo of Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan. Ashish Nehra’s wife Rushma who was present in the gallery proved to be his lucky charm as the left armer held his nerve in the final over to concede only 5 runs in the final over. Zaheer Khan created the record of the most expensive figures by an Indian bowler in ODIs as he went past Srinath to concede 88 in his 10 overs. Harbhajan Singh was the real class act of all the bowlers in the match by taking 2 for 58 in his 10 overs. The Man of the Match was given to Virender Sehwag although it should have been given jointly to Dilshan.