Ind vs SL: Rahane, Dhawan tons power India to 363/5
Cuttack: Openers Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan struck fluent centuries as India toyed with the Sri Lankan attack to post an imposing 363 for five in the first one-day International at the Barabati Stadium, here today.
Put into bat, Rahane struck 111 from 108 balls (13x4, 2x6) en route to his second ODI century while Dhawan returned to form with a 107-ball 113 (14x3, 3x6), his sixth overall, and first since his 119 vs West Indies in Kanpur in November last year, to set the tempo for the record total at this venue.
Capitalising on their respective dropped chances by veteran wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara, the duo complemented each other in a 231-run opening partnership.
Suresh Raina also did his bit by striking a quickfire 52 off 34 balls (4x4, 3x6) after being promoted to No.3 in his 200th match as it was one-way traffic for India.
Rookie left-arm spinner Axar Patel too impressed with his big-hitting skills as he spanked Dhammika Prasad for two sixes in the last over in his unbeaten 14 off four balls.
This was only the second time 300-plus was scored at this venue with the previous best being India's 301 for three against Zimbabwe way back in 1998.
However in the recent past, Kings XI Punjab piled 231/4 against Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in May this year in match that saw a total of 418 runs.
Much had been written about Sri Lanka's under preparedness for the series organised after the West Indies pull out from a full length series and it came to fore with their sloppy fielding and a depleted attack that lacked sting in the absence of Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath.
Former skipper Sangakkara became the villain, dropping Dhawan on 10 and Rahane on 38 in what would have been routine diving catches behind the stumps, much to derail the promising start given by their two new-ball bowlers in Dhammika Prasad (0-60) and Lahiru Gamage (1-59).
The two Indian openers moved at snail's pace with 14 runs from first five overs and the first power play yielded just 43 with 44 dot balls but the Lankan attack started becoming wayward, while Sangakkara's two reprieves injected the spark the duo needed.
Rahane started stepping out and even pulled at ease with the Lankans bowling short while left-handed Dhawan too complemented his partner to give the Indian run-rate the much needed push.
Rahane completed his 50 from 61 balls, while Dhawan who was a tad slower struck two fours and one six to Suraj Randiv in a 21-run 21st over to reach his half-century in 64 balls.
India's third 50 came in just 31 deliveries as the run-rate jumped to six into the midway mark as the openers started toying with the Lankan attack.
Rahane completed his century with a gentle push to long-on in the 32nd over while Dhawan too got the monkey off the back, scoring his first century in 19 matches with a six over mid-wicket to Seekkuge Prasanna.
It was a relieved looking Dhawan, who celebrated with his trademark style of stretching both arms wide in the air to a cheering 45,000 capacity crowd.
Just when the duo looked unstoppable Ashan Priyanjan gave the first breakthrough when the ball went down Dhawan's knee and had enough pace to dislodge the leg stump bail.
Randiv might be expensive conceding 78 runs from his 10 over quota but he too was their most successful bowler with three wickets to his tally including that of Rahane and stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, who made 22.
Earlier, the Lankans observed one-minute silence for the landslide tragedy in the Meeriyabedda tea plantation about 200kms east of Colombo on November 29.