| Kumar Sangakkara, at Hambantota, on Saturday
Hambantota: India survived some jittery moments in the fag end before snatching a thrilling 21-run win over Sri Lanka in the first one-dayer of the five-match series, here on Saturday.
Virat Kohli cracked a superb 106 and Virender Sehwag scored 96 runs as their 173-run stand for the second wicket laid the foundation for India’s imposing 314 for six after electing to bat.
Diminutive left-hander Suresh Raina (50 off 45) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (35 off 29) added valuable runs towards the end to take the side past 300-run mark.
India then restricted the hosts to 293 for nine to take a 1-0 lead in the series, which they need to win by a 5-0 margin to reclaim the No. 1 position in ODIs.
Meanwhile, ‘tainted’ leg-spinner Rahul Sharma ,who tested positive for drugs after being caught at a rave party was left out of the playing XI.
The hosts’ resistance was built around Sangakkara’s fighting 133 but he fell short of partners from the other end until he was joined by Thisara Perera, who scored a quick-fire 44 off just 28 balls.
Sangakkara’s knock, his 14th ODI hundred and fifth against India, came off 151 balls and included 12 boundaries.
Sangakkara and Perera rattled up a 78-run stand for the seventh wicket, giving some anxious moments to India but their effort only reduced the defeat margin.
Sri Lanka’s fight ended when Sangakkara was bowled by Umesh Yadav in 48th over and Perera was dismissed by Irfan Pathan in the penultimate over.
Pathan (2/37), R Ashwin (2/46) and Yadav (2/76) took two wickets each for India.
Kohli carried his good form of the last season into the match as he scored his fourth hundred in his last five innings. The 23-year-old Kohli blasted nine boundaries in his 113-ball innings.
Sehwag, who was given reprieve by Tillekaratne Dilshan in the second over, had 10 boundaries in his 97-ball innings.
Both the teams will now travel to Colombo for the second match, scheduled for Tuesday.
Sri Lanka made a shaky start to the chase as they lost Dilshan (6) in the second over. He was trapped by Pathan with his second ball.
Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga (28) somehow redeemed the innings with a 77-run stand but India never let the duo bat freely, resulting in mounting the required run-rate.
The two players had to work hard for runs as the wicket was two-paced and the outfield too was very slow. They managed to take Sri Lanka to 68 for one in 15 overs as the pace trio of Zaheer Khan, Pathan and Yadav kept things tight.
Spinner Ashwin started troubling the batsmen right from the word go and soon broke the second wicket stand by having Tharanga caught in the slip cordon.
Dinesh Chandimal (13) departed without contributing much, leaving Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to score at an asking rate of eight runs in the remaining 21 overs.
The last thing, Sri Lanka needed at that stage was losing another wicket but left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha struck a deadly blow to the host by trapping skipper Jayawardene (12).
Sangakkara cut loose, smashing Zaheer Khan and Ashiwn for boundaries to move quickly into 80s.
Sri Lanka required 144 runs from the last 15 overs and the pressure of scoring almost 10 runs per over got to Angelo Mathews, whose half-heated strike ended in the hands of Gautam Gambhir in the cover region. Sangakkara kept going strong from the other end and completed his century with a single off Ashwin in the last ball of the 39th over.
Perera hit a mighty 98-metre hit off Ojha and Sangakkara too started finding quick boundaries, turning the heat on India and making it a contest.
Earlier, India had a shaky start as Sehwag looked rusty early on and Gautam Gambhir (3) was sent packing after being bowled by Kulasekara in the third over.
Kohli brought up the first boundary through point and picked up another boundary when he worked down a Malinga ball to fine leg in the fourth over.