Considering the lack of match practice Sri Lanka had in the build up to hastily arranged India series, the hosts were always going to have the upper hand, especially in the opening one-dayer at Cuttack. And, it proved out to be that way. Batting first, India were all over the Sri Lankan bowling, never allowing them to dominate from start to end. Once they had a big score on the board, the Indian bowlers were expected to have it easy. But, to their credit, they put up a fine performance with the ball as well, to finish a wonderful all-round effort.
India’s openers it were who set up the victory for India, as the hosts batted first. Things weren’t easy for Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane as the new ball was doing a bit. But, to their credit, both of them stuck it out, not giving their wickets away, following which they were rewarded suitably. Dhawan’s hundred was particularly impressive, considering that in recent times he has had a habit of getting out after getting starts. This time though he went all the way, and converted the start into a well-deserved century.
As for Rahane, this was another reiteration of his status as an ever-improving cricketer. Rahane had recently scored a fantastic hundred in England, and his knock at Cuttack was also highly impressive. Of course, the century away from home will be rated higher since it came in tougher conditions, but the ton on Sunday was also a high-quality knock. With every good innings, Rahane is proving how versatile a batsman he is. Remember, he has scored Test hundreds in his last two series’ away from home, and has been consistently improving his one-day record especially after taking on the reins of opening the innings.
Suresh Raina also came up with a stellar knock in his 200th ODI appearance. The Indian team management made the smart move of promoting Raina up after number three following the dismissal of Dhawan. The decision not only kept the left-right combination going, but considering that India had got off to a spectacular start, it also gave Raina a free hand to go after the bowling right from the start. And, Raina did not disappoint, playing some smart strokes en route to a quick half-century. His knock also ensured that India lose the momentum they had got thanks to the openers.
India’s bowlers have struggled defending big scores in the past. But, this time, they were in sync. Umesh Yadav bowled with pace at the top and unsettled the batsmen. Ishant Sharma, who also had a point to prove, bowled brilliantly right throughout to be rewarded by four key wickets. Left-arm spinner Akshar Patel impressed once again, claiming two wickets, adding to his two sixes he hit during the end of the innings. Varun Aaron and Ravichandran Ashwin were slightly disappointing, but they will get chances to improve upon their performances in upcoming games. Overall, it was a near-perfect effort by India.
--By A Cricket Analyst