The first wicket dictated how the match was going to go - no matter how hard Sri Lanka try, India would be ahead.
Sri Lanka were on the back foot as soon as on the 3rd ball of their innings with dilshan being run out as this would mean that DPMD Jayewardene was just that much closer to coming out onto the crease. And considering the form he was in, Sri Lanka could not afford that.
Jayasuriya and Sangakkara rallied along well for more than the duration of half the innings and constructing a partnership of 118 runs. That might not sound as much but their partnership produced almost half of Sri Lanka’s total.
A low, slow pitch couldn’t stop Jayasuriya from becoming the oldest player to score an ODI century and that too at a strike rate of no less than 93. A brilliant new ball spell of 5-2-8-0 from zaheer khan didn’t bother him at all and once Zaheer was out of the attack, the runs from sanath’s bat started to flow easily.
The spin quartet of PP Ojha, YK Pathan, RG Sharma and SK Raina did slow the runs down for a while but none of them looked like picking up a wicket until Ojha picked up Sangakkara against the run of play. This brought SHT Kandamby to the crease.
Kandamby never looked comfortable, on a pitch that was hard to bat on let alon score when the bowlers were bowling tight lines, and was deservedly picked up by Ishant Sharma for who was finally rewarded for his fine bowling. And as it so often happens, one batsman follows the other to the pavilion; Jayasuriya was picked up in the very next over, by zaheer khan, trying to clear the boundaries.
Two wickets in the space of 5 balls meant two new batsmen were at the crease which was not a very good position for Sri Lanka to be in as they would soon have to start accelerating if they were ever going to give the Indian batsman a challenge.
Maharoof got his eye in early and luckily for Sri Lanka blasted 35 off 27 balls and picked up the innings. Jayawardene failed yet again struggling to make 11. Small late inning cameos by Thushara and Kapugedera lifted the Sri Lankan total to 246 setting India 247 to chase, which would be the highest chase in a day game at the Dambulla stadium.
Gambhir opened the Indian innings with Tendulkar as Sehwag sat the game out with a hip injury and both the openers started cautiously until Tendulkar was picked up by Thushara, unluckily adjudged LBW to a delivery that pitched outside the leg stump.
Raina and Gambhir from then onwards formed a partnership of 110 runs in which they dealt with all the bowlers, especially the duo of Murali-Mendis, with ease.
Both made half centuries at a healthy strike rate and would have surely demoted the Sri Lankans on the field until Gambhir was picked up by Murali, whilst trying to launch him into the stands, on 62. Raina soon followed for a well made 54 due to a run out caused by lack of communication between him and Yuvraj.
The captain, MS Dhoni, walked on to the field and along with Yuvraj scored without taking any risks. Yuvraj was looking fairly comfortable against what I consider USED to be his weakness, Spin.
He was nudging the ball into gaps and picking easy singles and hitting the odd boundary here and there until his adrenaline did him in as he tried to loft Maharoof for a six and was caught by Murali at long on.
This brought the 21 year old, Rohit Sharma to the crease. Dhoni and Sharma looked as comfortable against Murali and Mendis as ever and helped India chase down 247 with relative ease and in the process winning by six wickets with 11 balls remaining. Dhoni ended up with an unbeaten 61 and Sharma with an unbeaten on 25.
Jayasuriya deservedly got the Man of the Match for his uncharacteristically brilliant hundred. In the end a comfortable win for the visitors in the first ODI of the 5-match series. Hopefully the next games will be as, if not more competitive.