When the two sides were announced at the toss, the combined experience of the Sri Lankan XI was 220 ODIs. For India, their captain and vice-captain alone had appeared in 261 ODIs before this. Yet there was an air of freshness in this Indian side. But, after dusting off the rust with the ball and in the field in the first few overs, India came back to their own and ended up outclassing Sri Lanka in all three departments.
153.4 runs per wicket is what the Indian pacers average in the first 10 overs of ODIs since 2020. Easily the worst in this period. The next on the list are Zimbabwe pacers with 69 runs per wicket with the new ball. With Avishka Fernando’s silken stroke play and Minod Bhanuka’s solid temperament, Sri Lankan openers were unfazed in the first nine overs.
Bowling the 10th, Yuzvendra Chahal tossed it up and kept it wide of Fernando. Looking to clear extra cover, he failed to get the elevation. That brought to the crease Bhanuka Rajapaksa. He got off the mark in ODI cricket with a slog sweep off Chahal over mid-wicket for a six. Later in the day, another debutant, Ishan Kishan hit his first ball of the innings for six down the ground. Modern-day debutants ladies and gentlemen.
While Bhanuka was more risk-averse and got solidly behind the ball, Rajapaksa was more carefree and languid. He was in no mood to let the spinners settle, using his feet to hit them in vacant areas over extra cover or midwicket.
Then an over from Kuldeep Yadav – playing alongside Chahal for the first time after the game against England in the 2019 World Cup – turned the game in India’s favour. To a ball that was short, Rajapaksa went for the pull when he should have gone for the cut. A leading-edge was well-taken by the skipper Shikhar Dhawan, running back from mid-wicket. In the same over, 17th of the innings, Bhanuka failed to reach the pitch of the ball while playing a drive. The ball landed in the waiting hands of the first slip.
Sri Lanka were 91/3 at the end of the 17th over. One wicket too many but a decent run rate. What followed was a dry patch in an effort to rebuild. In the next 21 overs, Sri Lanka added a mere 78 runs while losing two wickets. Krunal Pandya, who gave at most five runs in one over, bowled 10 off these overs. In a spell of 1/26, he was the only Indian bowler not to concede a boundary.
Chahal coming back into the attack in 39th over broke some shackles as the Sri Lankan skipper thumped him down the ground for a six. But Sri Lanka kept losing wickets at regular intervals and looked set to finish below 250. The Kul-Cha combo ended with 4/100 off their 19 overs. However, Sri Lanka ended two more runs in the last three overs of the innings than they did in the seven overs before it: 39 in overs 48-50 vs 37 in 41-47.
A positive for India was Hardik Pandya bowling again. However, both he and Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed their areas as Sri Lanka’s number eight, Chamika Karunaratne – who was also the top-scorer and number ten, Dushmantha Chameera hit both of them for three sixes and two fours in total to propel the total to 262/9.
When India began their chase, Prithvi Shaw first and Ishan Kishan made it a mere formality in no time. Shaw hit nine boundaries in the first five overs, all of them well-timed strokes. Kishan hit a 33-ball fifty, the second-fastest for India on debut to render the chase a cakewalk. When he departed, India needed a mere 120 in 32.1 overs. While Shaw was serene, Kishan bludgeoned the spinners walking down the track on most occasions and hitting them down the ground.
Dhawan ambled on in his merry way to remain unbeaten as he became the quickest to reach a 1000 ODI runs against Sri Lanka, reaching there in 17 innings. He overtook Hashim Amla who did in 18. He also brought about 6000 ODI runs while reaching his 33rd half-century. His knock was sedate to begin with but gathered pace when Sri Lanka had surrendered.
Manish Pandey had another failure as he was caught at mid-wicket and fell for a 40-ball 26. Suryakumar Yadav with his inside out shots and fine sweeps added a quick-fire 31 off 20 balls. India went 1-0 up in the series, winning the first ODI with 80 balls to spare. Sri Lanka have now won only one of their nine completed ODIs this year.
In a match where there were knocks of 86* and 59, it is Prithvi Shaw who was picked as the Player of the Match for his 43 off 24 balls. It is a decision based purely on impact which put India far ahead right from the first ball in their run chase. “I just went with my instinct and waited for the loose balls. Obviously wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking and yeah. Pitch was very nice. First innings also was good but I think it got better in the second innings," said Shaw in the post-match presentation.
“All our boys, most of them have played earlier. They're very matured. Very happy with the way they played. Knew that wicket has a bit of turn but the way our spinners bowled from the 10th over, they got us back straightaway. All three spinners. When we batted, it was great to watch from the other end. Great strength to have them. The way the young boys play IPL, get so much exposure, their confidence level is very high. The way Prithvi and Ishan batted, they finished the game in first 15 overs,” signed of Dhawan, winnings his first ODI as a captain.