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IND vs SL 1st ODI: Dhawan And Rahane Fashion Sri Lanka Rout

By on November 2, 2014

India 363 for 5 (Dhawan 113, Rahane 111) beat Sri Lanka 194 (Jayawardene 43, Ishant 4-34) by 169 runs…

Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan delivered a staggering mid-innings explosion that yielded 96 runs in eight overs, and for the rest of the match, Sri Lanka were left chasing a runaway engine.

India continued to hurtle ahead, hitting 363 for 5 after Rahane and Dhawan had hit hundreds, before Sri Lanka’s chase began to run out of steam inside the first 20 overs.

IND vs SL 1st ODI: Ajinkya RahaneIshant Sharma’s 4 for 34 hastened the end, as he made excellent use of the bounce on the Cuttack pitch as well as the seam on offer.

The pre-series talk of Sri Lanka having arrived underprepared, and wielding a green attack, proved startlingly accurate, as they were defeated by 169 runs. The Dhawan-Rahane partnership had produced 37 more runs than the 194 Sri Lanka managed in their whole innings.

Suraj Randiv’s first ODI in three year’s had been going okay until his third over – the 21st of the innings. Kumar Sangakkara had been among the first to suggest Sri Lanka would head into this series underdone, and although he had fulfilled his own prophecy by dropping one catch each off Dhawan and Rahane, Sri Lanka had managed to keep India in check, conceding only 90 from the first 20 overs. But then the bloodbath began.

Rahane reached his fifty with a single off the second ball of that Randiv over, before Dhawan took strike and embarked on the first bona-fide charge of the innings.

He paddle-swept Randiv fine for four first, then reverse-paddled him for an almost symmetrical boundary, before running at the bowler to crash him over long on, to bring up his own half-century.

That was the moment the engine de-coupled and set off at the breakneck speed, on its own. The scoring barely eased from there, and even then, not until these two had been separated.

Dhawan was powerful in the arc between midwicket and cover, bullying even the decent balls to the fence, while Rahane, operating with a little more finesse, moving around the crease to manipulate the angles, playing that delicious inside-out shot particularly well.

They took the batting Powerplay in the 24th over, and could hardly have used it more effectively. Gamage was cracked for 15 in one over, with the field pulled in, and Mathews walloped for 18.

The hitting from both batsmen was so clean and so precise that at 186 for 0 after 28 overs, a score in excess of 400 seemed a distinct possibility.

Seeing that both men were hitting well down the ground, the Sri Lanka bowlers attempted to pull back their lengths, but the openers would simply make room and flat-bat the short balls back over the bowler – thoroughly unfussed, casually arrogant.

The batsmen completed their tons in quick succession; Rahane hitting his off 99 balls, before Dhawan launched Seekkuge Prasanna over midwicket to get to his milestone off 96. Having matched each other step-for-step in their partnership, they were both dismissed off innocuous balls too.

Dhawan swept a floated Ashan Priyanjan ball on to his foot, and then deflected the ball on to leg stump on 113. Three overs later, Rahane lobbed a Randiv full toss straight to mid off, on 111.

Mathews tapped each of his eight bowling resources during the carnage, but no bowler seemed capable of clotting up the run hemorrhage, much less present a menace to India.

The bowling was more uninspired than indisciplined. The quicks were short of variation, the spinners unable to deceive, and the medium-paced allrounder turned out to be fodder on one of the flattest batting tracks Sri Lanka have played on this year.

Suresh Raina ensured the lull after those dismissals was brief, mauling Thisara Perera for 20 in the 41st over, with assistance from Virat Kohli. Like the openers, Raina was most productive in front of square, hitting his 5000th ODI run in his 200th match, on his way to 52 off 34.

Even at his exit, at 299 for 3 in the 44th over, a score of close to 400 appeared possible. Such was the ease with which boundaries were being clobbered. But the bowlers induced false shots from Kohli and Ambati Rayudu, and only Akshar Patel’s 14 off 4 propelled the score over 350 in the final over.

Sri Lanka’s top order, save for Mahela Jayawardene, was visibly rusty. Tillakaratne Dilshan thrashed his way to 18 from 22, but never appeared at ease, before edging Umesh Yadav behind in the ninth over.

Upul Tharanga is one of the few Sri Lanka batsmen who had had recent match practice going into this game, but his 28 from 53 sucked the air out of Sri Lanka’s start, and sent the already-daunting required rate on its ascent.

Ishant Sharma claimed Sangakkara for the first of his four wickets when he sent a short one across the batsman to take his outside edge.

And though Jayawardene hit a dainty but dangerous 43 from 36, he had already begun running out of top-order partners with whom a serious challenge to India’s total could be launched. The middle and lower order was crushed under the heft of the task that had been left to them.

The rust in Sri Lanka’s cricket was evident in the loss, but with four more matches coming up in the next two weeks and the World Cup on the horizone, they will need to shake themselves back to their best quickly.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo‘s Sri Lanka correspondent.

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