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Asia Cup: Delhi duo sees India through against Sri Lanka

Familiar conditions and a friendlier pitch saw India get back into their “Giant”- avatar as they beat Sri Lanka by 50 runs in their opening fixture of the Asia Cup. Centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli saw India pile up a huge total of 304, which was well defended by a solid bowling and fielding performance.

Chasing a challenging total of 304, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 250 due to some disciplined Indian bowling and some bad shot selection by the Sri Lankan middle order.

Sri Lanka raced off to 21 of the first three overs, as Mahela Jayawardene continued his merry ways at the top of the order. Dilshan, however, fell to Pathan as the Indians looked to crawl back into the game. But a 93 run stand between the Sri Lanka skipper and Kumara Sanggakara (65) threatened to take the game away from India. The pair ran beautifully between the wickets and played some attractive shots to keep India at bay before Jayawardene (78) glided an away swinger into Dhoni’s hand off Irfan Pathan.

That led India back into the game and some rash shot making from the middle order slithered away the early advantage. R. Ashwin came into his own and stifled the batsmen that led to the collapse. Ashwin picked up Sanggakara, Chandimal (13) and Thirimanne(29) to break the middle order and snatch the game away from the islanders.

The Sri Lankan lower order tried to throw their bats but an accurate Vinay Kumar (3/55) and an incisive Irfan Pathan(4/32) sealed the game for India.

Earlier, Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to field. The departure from Australian pitches to “home” conditions saw India get to a massive 304/3 after Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir slammed their 10th ODI tons. The Delhi duo joined hands and built a 205 run partnership that set up India for a win.

After losing Sachin Tendulkar(11) cheaply, the former and the newly appointed vice captain of Team India steadily progressed the Indian innings to solidarity.

Gambhir (100) used his feet well against the spinners, lofting over extra cover and down the ground. He looked far more comfortable on a low bounce track that allowed him to play his customary dab down to the third man – a shot that landed him in trouble on the bouncier Australian tracks. However, he was given a life on 36 and survived a close run out chance on 94.

Kohli (106) celebrated his vice captaincy by notching up yet another ODI ton and continued with his great run of form. He looked positive from the outset and rotated the strike at the beginning of his innings. He unleashed himself in the middle overs where India amassed 87 in a space of 15 overs.

Both batsmen brought up their hundreds in the 42nd over with contrasting styles of celebration – Kohli controlled his emotions and  gestured to his team-mates with a big smile while Gambhir punched the air, removed his helmet and yelled out to the dressing-room. His emotional reaction might well be a outburst of the frustration of losing his vice captaincy and the drought of a three figure score for a long time.

The finishing act however was provided by the “The Best Finisher” of the ODI format MS Dhoni. After Kohli and Gambhir fell in the same over from Maharoof, the Indian captain unleashed himself on the Sri Lankan bowling. Aptly helped by Suresh Raina, the pair added an unbeaten 78 of just 7 overs.

The helicopter shot came out in the open and Dhoni swung his way to a 26 ball 46, while Raina hit the last ball of the innings for a six to stay put at 30 off 17.

The Lankan bowling, without Lasith Malinga, leaked runs by bowling a barrage of full tosses. The fielding too looked a little jaded – an effect of a grueling CB Series in Australia.

The win gives India an edge as they look to take on the hosts Bangladesh at Dhaka on March 16, but Sri Lanka would be under pressure as they lock horns with Pakistan in their next encounter on March 15.

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