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India demolish Sri Lanka in opener

Last updated on: January 28, 2009 19:25 IST

An unflappable Mahendra Singh Dhoni led by example as India turned in a clinical all-round display to thrash Sri Lanka by six wickets and take a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series, in Dambulla on Wednesday.

Chasing 247, India rode on substantial contributions from Gautam Gambhir (62) and Suresh Raina (54) before Dhoni (61 not out) guided the team to victory with 11 balls to spare.

The ageing Sanath Jayasuriya's 28th ODI century went in vain as the Indians never allowed the islanders to break loose on a slow track. Kumar Sangakkara contributed 44 as Sri Lanka posted 246 for 7 wickets in their allotted 50 overs.

The teams now move to Colombo for the second ODI on Saturday.

This was India's sixth straight ODI victory, coming after their 5-0 whitewash of England at home.

With a hip injury keeping Virender Sehwag out of action, and Sachin Tendulkar (5) back in the hut in the fourth over, India's chase on a sluggish track was far from easy. But with Gambhir and Raina on song India hardly had reason to worry.

The left-handed duo went on to stitch together a 113-run stand for the second wicket that laid the perfect foundation for a successful chase, besides offsetting the setback of losing Tendulkar early in the innings.

Thilana Thushara's delivery had pitched bit outside the leg stump before rapping Tendulkar's pad and Kumar Dharmasena, making his ODI debut as umpire, took time before upholding the vociferous appeal.

The Gambhir and Raina partnership laid the platform for the other batsmen as the visitors chased down the highest-ever total at the venue, which has so far hosted 26 matches.

Gambhir and Raina, however, were a trifle lucky. Early in his innings, a diving Nuwan Kulasekara apparently caught Gambhir off his own bowling but repeated replays proved inconclusive and the Delhi left-hander eventually had the benefit of doubt.

Raina was spilled at point by Tillakaratne Dilshan off Thushara when he was on seven.

But once they got their eyes in, there was no stopping the Indians. Gambhir milked the Lankan attack with consummate ease and often stepped out to unsettle them. A streaky boundary off Dilshan brought up his fifty, but his audacious bid to hit Muttiah Muralitharan out of the park saw him perish at long-off.

Raina, who had hit Nuwan Kulasekara for a couple of fours and a six in the same over, completed his fifty as well, but going for a non-existent second run cost him his wicket.

Yuvraj Singh (23) looked ill at ease against the Lankan spinners, especially Ajantha Mendis, but it was Farveez Maharoof who dismissed the left-hander.

Dhoni and Rohit Sharma (25 not out) then played sensibly to guide the team to victory.

Earlier, Dhoni won an important toss at the Rangiri Dambulla International stadium and asked the hosts to take first strike.

Jayasuriya proved he still has it in him to excel at the highest level. A perennial thorn in India's flesh, his 28th ODI century was studded with 10 fours and a six off Pragyan Ojha. He also became the second man after Sachin Tendulkar to score 13,000 runs in ODIs in the process when he steered Ishant Sharma in the 14th over for his 37th run.

At 39 years and 212 days, Jayasuriya also became the oldest cricketer to score an ODI century. Geoff Boycott held the previous record after scoring 105 against Australia in 1979 when he was 39 years and 51 days old.

Sri Lanka lost in-form opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (0) to the third ball of the match but Jayasuriya and Sangakkara put up a 118-run second wicket partnership to guide the team to a decent total.

Zaheer Khan was virtually unplayable; such was his accuracy that the first run came off his 18th delivery.

Apart from Ojha, the lone specialist spinner in the side, Dhoni pressed into service Yusuf Pathan, Rohit and Raina as well and all of them did a decent job in containing the Sri Lankan batsmen.

With boundaries not really flowing, Jayasuriya and Sangakkara ran hard between the wickets. Once he reached his fifty, Jayasuriya provided a glimpse of his characteristic savage batting when he stepped out to hit Ojha to the sightscreen for a clean six.

A half-century, however, eluded Sangakkara, who came down the track to hit Ojha but didn't get the elevation and found Raina at mid-on.

A couple off Rohit brought up Jayasuriya's hundred but the toil had started taking its toll on his stamina. The opener soon developed cramps. He eventually perished in the 40th over when he lobbed a slower full toss from Zaheer to mid-off.

Sent ahead of captain Mahela Jayawardene (11), Farveez Maharoof played a 27-ball cameo of 35, including two fours and a six off Ojha, before an inside edge off Ishant disturbed his timber.

Virender Sehwag was ruled out of the match with a lower back injury picked up during training.

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