Dhawan, Rahane batter Lanka

Riding on openers' brisk hundreds, India score an emphatic 169-run victory

Dhawan, Rahane batter Lanka
The Sri Lankan plight was best captured by their former international-turned-commentator Russell Arnold whose dry-humoured tweet in Tamil, roughly translated, meant ‘after inviting, they are beating them up… can’t bear this!’

Maintaining their vice-like grip over Sri Lanka, India, who posted a massive 363/5 after being put into bat first, dismissed the visitors for a sorry 194 in 39.2 overs to register a 169-run win in the opening encounter of the five-match ODI series here at the packed Barabati Stadium on Sunday.

The Virat Kohli-led side had multiple heroes on the day that helped it script a comprehensive win. The young Axar Patel, replacing Ravindra Jadeja, shone both with the ball and the bat; Suresh Raina produced a little gem in his 200th ODI match while Ishant Sharma returned to ODIs after a gap of nine months with a bang, generating high pace and disconcerting bounce to claim  his best ODI figures yet (4/34).

 But all these performances dwarfed in comparison to the majestic display of batting by Ajinkya Rahane (111, 108b, 13x4, 2x6) and Shikhar Dhawan (113, 107b, 14x4, 3x6).        
The duo put on an opening stand of 231 runs off just 211 balls that formed a solid foundation for hosts’ daunting target. For the record, this was the third highest partnership for the opening wicket for India and overall joint ninth highest. This was also the 20th time that India posted a 350-plus total and their record of not losing any of these matches remained intact.    
    
Strange as it may sound, it wasn’t quite the finish that India would have envisaged after the frenetic pace that Rahane and Dhawan had set for Raina (52, 34b, 4x4, 3x6) and Kohli to build on. A total in the vicinity of 400 didn’t appear implausible with the two batsmen looking in ominous touch but their departures in quick succession helped Lankans slow things down a bit.

That at the end of the innings, a total in excess of 350 seemed short of expectation amply reflected the domination of the Indian batsmen, especially Rahane and Dhawan and that too after managing less than 50 runs in the first Power Play.

There was hardly anything that separated the left-right opening combination. Both looked unsure at the start of the innings and earned a reprieve each from wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara before they touched the 40-run mark. The strike-rates were almost the same throughout their stints and Rahane had just two boundaries less than his partner when he was dismissed.

The ball jumped, zipped, seamed and swung for a fair amount of time in the afternoon but Rahane and Dhawan, with a little bit of fortune, survived the ‘testing’ period. Once the two got their eyes in, the caution made way for brazen aggression. Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews pressed in as many as eight bowlers in a desperate bid to separate the duo. But the success came only after all the damage had been done.

Driving by both Rahane and Dhawan was of exceptional quality but the two weren’t afraid to step out and take the aerial route. Rahane even pulled Mathews over mid-wicket on front-foot for his first six while Dhawan effectively combined his cheeky dabs behind the wickets with audacious slogs in front.

Well set as the two were, they took batting Power Play early (from overs 24-28) and collected a whopping 62 runs which is the joint highest since the new ODI rule changes came into effect in 2012.  

Rahane was the first to reach the triple figure, his career second, with a single off Suraj Randiv and in the next over Dhawan brought up his sixth ODI hundred in style with a six off Seekuge Prasanna.

The southpaw had reached his fifty too in similar fashion. The two didn’t hang around for too long after reaching their respective hundreds but they had done enough to leave Lankans deflated even before they resumed the chase.

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