| Nuwan Zoysa exults after dismissing Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Sunday
Ahmedabad: Arms raised high, he held a meaningful smile on his lips. Rahul Dravid does not always need to say it in words, his actions say he is comfortable in his new seat. He has never made his emotions known, but the way he celebrated his hundred at the Motera seemed significant.
Limping as he battled cramps in his hamstring, Dravid pulled Dilhara Fernando to complete his 11 th hundred. Despite Gautam Gambhir’s polished 103 it was the Indian captain’s unbeaten innings that really stood out. Unfortunate that such a valiant effort went for a losing cause.
The cramps had forced Dravid to stay in the dressing room, with Jai Prakash Yadav taking the field as super sub, during the Sri Lankan innings. Vice-captain Virender Sehwag took charge.
The visitors decided to field first keeping in mind the dew factor. Though they struggled to hit the wet ball, chasing 286, in the initial stages, things started to fall in place from the middle-overs. They never let the advantage slip pulling off their first win in the Videocon Cup. Greg Chappell may now have to rethink strategies for the remaining two matches.
The inexperience in the bowling showed as Tillekeratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold went about their task. The pair added 131 in an unbroken stand for the fifth wicket as victory was achieved in 47.4 overs.
Yadav never looked threatening and the conditions were not to Murali Kartik’s liking. Rudra Pratap Singh and S. Sreeshant found the going tough and despite Ajit Agarkar’s consistent line, the Lankans made it look easy in the end. It was the lack of penetration in the attack that did India in.
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had laid the foundation with scintillating strokeplay despite another Sanath Jayasuriya failure. But it was Man-of-the-Match Dilshan (81 not out off 67 balls, 8x4) who stole the limelight.
It may not have been flamboyant but will rank high in terms of utility. The Indians tried different combinations but failed to find the vital breakthrough.
The ‘rotation policy’ saw Sachin Tendulkar sitting out along with Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh. Gambhir, who was facing the axe, grabbed the opportunity with both hands. It never seemed he was out of action for sometime as he middled the ball with perfection. That he was under pressure to deliver never showed in his approach.
His maiden hundred was laced with 13 boundaries and a huge six over square leg. The opener made full use of the conditions as the bowlers erred in length. Despite a strong on-side field, he repeatedly whipped the bowlers off his legs.
Once Sehwag dragged the ball onto his stumps and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was adjudged leg before next ball, it looked like the visitors would call the shots. But Gambhir put to rest all the Doubting Thomases. He never let the fall of wickets affect the scoring rate while taking calculated risks on both sides of the wicket.
This tough and disciplined Delhi opener batted impeccably. Nothing shook his resolve or deflected his concentration. It holds good for the team that there is intense competition for every berth in the side.
Yuvraj Singh failed once again. He has always looked out of form in this series and once again struggled to find the gaps during his 21 ball stay.
Gambhir and Rahul Dravid then got together to forge the most successful of partnerships. The Indian captain was controlled as Gambhir did the bulk of the scoring during the 128-run stand for the fourth wicket off 147 balls.
Only when Gambhir departed did Dravid accelerate. It has to be said that Dravid (103 not out off 119 balls, 8x4, 1x6) timed the innings with consummate nerve and was a typical demonstration of his enduring skill and indomitable will. That the leadership burden has not affected his batting does not need to be reminded.
The Lankan bowling faltered once again. With Zoysa going for 29 runs in first five overs and the hosts on the run riot, the visitors had no option but to introduce Fervez Maharoof as super sub after 14 overs. Only Muttiah Muralidharan did justice to his reputation.