Ajinkya Rahane smashed his first ODI century at home © PTI
Ajinkya Rahane smashed his first ODI century at home © PTI

By Devarchit Varma

Nov 2, 2014

Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan slammed centuries as India set a huge 364–run target against Sri Lanka at Cuttack in the first One-Day International (ODI) on Sunday. Rahane smashed his second century in ODI cricket and first at home, whereas Dhawan completed his sixth ton as the two batsmen added as many as 231 runs for the first wicket to help India get off an extremely strong start in the game as well as in the five-match series.

India piled up 363 for five in their allotted 50 overs, with Rahane and Dhawan getting centuries and Suresh Raina smashing a quickfire half-century to stamp their authority over the tourists.

The toss was won by Angelo Mathews, but few overs into the game the Sri Lankans would have sensed that it was not the right decision. The pitch did not assist the bowlers much, and despite the Sri Lankan pace bowlers maintaining good line and length it proved very tough for them to remove the Indian openers.

An opportunity did come their way — Dhammika Prasad getting an outside edge off Dhawan’s bat in the seventh — spilled by Kumar Sangakkara behind the wickets. The veteran cricketer was sharp enough to get to the ball low on his left, but failed to grab it one-handed. Little did the Sri Lankans know how costly that reprieve would be.

The Indian openers made a slow but steady start earlier in the game. Both Rahane and Dhawan looked rusty at the start, with the latter being squared up by the Sri Lankan pacers on more than one occasion. But as the two batsmen got their eye in, they started scoring easily and made the Sri Lankan bowling attack look ordinary. Rahane and Dhawan hit boundaries on the loose balls, and by the 10th over, India had crawled to 43 for no loss.

The Indian openers never looked in any hurry, as if they had the target scores per over jotted down perfectly in their minds. After 17 overs, 75 runs were on board and then came the second opportunity. Thisara Perera drew Rahane forward on the second ball of the 18th over, and an outside edge flew between Sangakkara and the fielder at the first slip after brushing the wicketkeeper. It was certainly a big miss again, as both the batsmen caused heavy damage to the Sri Lankans.

In the 21st over, both Rahane and Dhawan brought up their half-centuries and took the team score past 100. Dhawan, in his trademark style, hit a six off Suraj Randiv to bring up his fifty. The Sri Lankan bowlers had no reply to the Indian batsmen as they failed to produce enough opportunities to make any breakthrough, while the Indians made merry on a benign track.

India took the batting PowerPlay in the 23rd over and it proved to be a masterstroke. The next five overs yielded another 62 runs to the hosts as they continued to pile misery on the Sri Lankans. The 28th over saw Sri Lankan skipper Mathews being hit for 18 runs, including a six from Rahane, who moved into the 90s. Rahane brought up his second ton – his first at home – in the 32nd over with a single off Tillakaratne Dilshan. But it was Dhawan who once again stole the limelight with a six to complete his century in the next over.

It was on the final ball of the 35th over that Sri Lanka got a wicket. Ashan Priyanjan dismissed Dhawan for 113 as the batsman attempted a sweep but played it on the wickets. Rahane was out soon, trying to hit over the mid-off but ended up giving a catch to Mahela Jayawardene off Randiv.

Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina continued to score freely as their top-order batsmen had done, getting runs on both sides of the wicket. Perera was smashed for 20 runs in the 41st over, with Raina smashing two fours and a six.

It was a memorable outing for Raina, who continued to score runs for India as he completed 200 ODIs. During his innings of 52, Raina also brought up 5,000 runs in the format. Raina looked in good rhythm as runs came on both sides of the wicket, with the left-handed swinging the bat on will and getting the desired return. Raina’s innings of 52 came from 34 balls, hitting four boundaries and three sixes. He added 52 runs for the third wicket with skipper Kohli. The Indian skipper fell for 24 and towards the end, Ambati Rayudu’s 27 off 20 balls helped India inch closter to the 350-run mark. Sri Lankan debutant, Lahiru Gamage, took his first international wicket in form of Rayudu.

For the depleted Sri Lankan bowling attack, it was an outing to forget. They used as many as eight bowlers, and only Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Upul Tharanga were the ones who did not bowl. Randiv was the pick among the bowlers, returning with the figures of 10-0-78-3.

Brief scores:

India 363 for 5 in 50 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 111, Shikhar Dhawan 113, Suresh Raina 52; Suraj Randiv 3 for 78) vs Sri Lanka.

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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)