Sri Lanka v India, 1st ODI, Hambantota July 21, 2012

Dhoni pleased to have Irfan firing

ESPNcricinfo staff

India captain MS Dhoni has said Irfan Pathan showing signs of form during the first ODI against Sri Lanka was a big advantage for his team, and would help lend balance to the XI.

"One good positive was Irfan Pathan doing well," Dhoni said after the match. "Without [Ravindra] Jadeja or Yuvraj [Singh], it is difficult to make the side balanced in both departments, so this was important."

Irfan, whose patchy form with the ball has seen him in and out of the team recently, was a last-minute addition to the squad for the Sri Lanka tour, after Vinay Kumar was ruled out with injury last week. Here, opening the bowling with Zaheer Khan, he got the ball to swing both ways and struck with his second ball, getting rid of Tillakaratne Dilshan lbw. At the end of his first spell, his figures read 6-1-20-1, and India already had a firm grip on the scoring rate.

India's bowling in the end overs, however, Dhoni said, still needed to be better. "It was a good learning experience for the younger bowlers. Zak [Zaheer] was good. [But] The death bowling for us needs to improve."

In the chase of 315, Sri Lanka had come into the final 10 overs needing 112 runs, before centurion Kumar Sangakkara and No. 8 Thisara Perera - with 44 off 28 balls - knocked off quick runs to give Sri Lanka hope. Though Sri Lanka eventually fell 21 short, they had scored just over 100 runs in 11 overs, after being 191 for 6 in 39th.

Leaving it too late in the chase, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said, was his team's mistake. "We've got some big-hitters at the end, but we left too much for them to do. Too many mistakes, against a quality side like India.

"It was important for us to set up a platform and [so] Sanga [Sangakkara] was trying to build an innings. [But] We never had momentum going into the last 10 overs. We'll try to refocus and come back strong."

Earlier, Dhoni had won a rare toss and, he said, he was pleased to do so since the conditions were against Sri Lanka in the chase. "This was one game where I felt the toss would be crucial," he said. "In the second innings, there was variable bounce and it was a little difficult to bat on."