Dhoni & Yuvraj inspire India
INDIA drew first blood in the five-one day series against Pakistan, winning the first match in front of a jubilant home crowd.
Batting second, the hosts reached their 240 target with 18 balls left in front of a packed house in Guwahati.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was named man-of-the-match after his aggressive 105 partnership with Yuvraj Singh put his team on course for victory.
Winning the toss, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik opted to bat but his team never looked comfortable on the slow pitch.
Kamran Akmal was the first to go on 44 runs when he fell lbw to Pathan. Salman Butt reached his half-century off 57 balls with eight boundaries before a mix-up with Younus Khan saw him run-out.
With Harbhajan Singh and slow left-armer Murali Kartik operating India’s bowling, Pakistan failed to find a route through. Not a single boundary came in the next 16 overs with the Pakistani batsmen becoming increasingly frustrated.
Yousuf was fortunate to stay on the field after Ganguly failed to hold onto a leading edge.
He went on to make an unbeaten 83 but the lack of support from the middle order cost Pakistan a higher total.
Only Shahid Afridi (31) and Misbah-ul-Haq (27) added any significance to the Pakistan total of 239.
With a packed house behind them, India emerged with openers Ganguly and fan-favourite Tendulkar.
But all hopes that the little master would lead India to victory were dashed when he was brilliantly trapped lbw by the returning Shoaib Akhtar with just 14 runs on the board.
India steadied themselves and good batting by Gambhir and Ganguly led India’s charge to the 240 target before the later was run out for just 39 runs.
Gambhir fell on the last ball of the 20th over, bowled superbly by Afridi.
But India’s middle order of Yuvraj and Dhoni did what Pakistan failed to do. A superb 105 partnership with Dhoni reaching 63 and Yuvraj reaching 58 left bowlers Uthappa and Pathan to wrap up the match.
Speaking after the match man-of –match Dhoni was all praise for his bowlers.
“They realised what was a good length and bowled to the field,” he said.
“Murali Kartik and Harbhajan Singh have been doing well consistently and the conditions favoured the spinners.”
And on his own partnership with Yuvraj, he said: “We needed a left-right combination in the middle, it was turning but we always knew if Yuvraj and me were settled we could go after the bowling.”
His Pakistani counterpart Shoaib Malik said he believed his side will get back into the series.
“I felt that 240 was defendable but we didn’t field well,” he said.
“We’re struggling a bit right now but we have learned a lot from this. There are still four games to go and I’m sure we can get back into the series.”
The second ODI will be played in Mohali this Thursday.