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Sachin's return puts India back on track

Sachin?s comeback and an all-round team performance led the hosts to a resounding win over Lanka. Full Scorecard

india Updated: Oct 26, 2005 14:55 IST
Akshay Sawai
Akshay Sawai

Sachin Tendulkar last batted for India six months ago. He last batted like this a few years ago.

Playing his first international match since April, Tendulkar's strokeful 93 (96 balls, 9x4, 2x6), and his 147-ball 164-run partnership with Irfan Pathan (83, 70b, 8x4, 4X6) set up India's 152- run victory in the Videocon Cup opener against Sri Lanka here on Tuesday.

Captain and Nagpur jamaai Rahul Dravid drummed out a blazing 85 as India, batting first on a friendly track after having won the toss, scored 350 for six, a record total for a ODI in Nagpur. The previous best was the home country's 348 for eight against New Zealand in 1995-96. The huge target of 351 daunted Sri Lanka. Then the Indian spinners -- Harbhajan Singh and super sub Murali Kartik -- did the rest. They took three for 35 and three for 48 respectively, as Lanka folded up for 198 in 35.4 overs.

In a day, the picture has changed. Because going into this match, Sri Lanka were the favourites. The win puts India one ahead in the seven-match series, and drives out the dark memories of recent weeks.

Dravid's 64-ball scorcher at a time when the ball had softened won him the man-of-the-match award, but Tendulkar's spirited return drew a stronger response. On Tuesday, his timing was back. His audacity was back. For the 35,000 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association, the thrill of watching him was back. Considering Tendulkar had eschewed risk over the last few years and had assertively stuck by his choice, his adventurous, nostalgic innings was a happy surprise.

Not just for fans, but teammates too. "He played as if he had never been away," Dravid said.

Tendulkar may have gotten off the mark with two consecutive fours off Farveez Maharoof - a cover drive and a flick - but the first sign that he wanted to boogie came against Chaminda Vaas. It was the fifth over, and Tendulkar gave the bowler a horizontal-batted charge.

The result -- an inside edge that could have hit the stumps -- was not heartening, the intentions were. In any case, he got it right in the next over, sending Maharoof over mid-on for a six. The stroke was retro-Sachin, a concise, semi-circular backlift-to-follow through motion sending the ball arching over the field.

At the other end, Virender Sehwag was doing alright too. He had reached 20 (25 balls) with the help of four boundaries. But in the seventh over, just after the crowd had chanted his name for the first time (till then it was only 'Sachin-Sachin', another sign of the public's fondness for Tendulkar), he departed.

In jogged Irfan Pathan, his energetic entry demonstrating that he is at that stage of his career where he is still enjoying things. Over 107 minutes, he showed he could be a destructive, veratile number three batsman. Not only did he play well in front of the wicket, he also showed he could execute strokes square of the track, in particular against the dreaded Muttiah Muralitharan. Muralitharan challenged the batsmen a bit, but wasn't successful.

Tendulkar reached his 50 in 50 balls, Pathan in 41. Irfan's mauling of Tillekeratne Dilshan in the 24th over was stunning. He clubbed two sixes and a four off the bowler. Tendulkar, aside from the six discussed above, authored a straight drive off Dilhara Fernando that could have contested in a beauty pageant. And there was that back tap to the fine leg fence, left foot in front and bat simply finding the ball and helping it behind, off Vaas.

After Irfan and Sachin got out, the latter after edging Maharoof on the rise to wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakarra when just seven away from a 39 th ODI hundred, Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the stage. They put on 69 for the fifth wicket in just 51 balls. The fireworks included a clattering inside-out six by Dravid off Vaas in the 47th over and two big mamas from the fearless Dhoni -- one in the same over and the other, a strength-meets-skill flick over the ropes against Fernando in the next.

Two partnerships gave some lung to the Sri Lankan effort -- Sanath Jayasuriya-Sangakarra and Vaas-Dilhara Lokuhettige (super sub). The first pair put on 64 in 49 balls for the second wicket, the other 63 in 61 balls for the ninth. But Dravid put Harbhajan and Sehwag on the first job. Where Vaas-Lokuhettige are concerned, it was just too late for them to do too much.

"Sri Lanka were going at seven-plus at one point (when Jayasuriya and Sangakarra were batting)," Dravid said. "We thought we should slow down the game and get a wicket. We got two in two overs. Harbhajan and Kartik bowled well." Bowling debutant S Sreesanth went for many runs, but his sweat was repaid when he got the wickets of Lokuhettige and Muralitharan.

Along with the super sub rule, power-plays were also used. Sri Lanka chose the option from over 11-15 and 16-20, India from 13-17 and 18-22.


Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Venugopal Rao, Mahendra Dhoni, Jai Prakash Yadav, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth.

Super sub: Murali Kartik

Sri Lanka

Marvan Atapattu (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumara Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Russel Arnold, Upul Chandana, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Maharoof.

Super sub: Dilhara Lokuhettige.

First Published: Oct 25, 2005 08:49 IST