In spite of a ton from Sachin Tendulkar, the target set by India was too small on a slow track which was playing true. Sanath Jayasuriya and his young players Russel Arnold (59, 70 balls including 7 hits to the fence) and Kumara Sangakkara (40 not out off 64 with four 4s) helped them pull off an easy victory over the Indians by five wickets in the first match of the Coca Cola Champions Trophy at Sharjah on Friday. Tendulkar was named man-of-the-match for his heroic effort.
Tendulkar's 26th one day international century was the highlight of a generally lacklustre Indian innings. The 27-year-old batting maestro hit 101 but except for Robin Singh, none of the other batsman contributed anything substantial and India were restricted to 224 for eight in 50 overs. Four run outs compounded the Indians' agony
Winning the toss, India were off to a bright start with skipper Sourav Ganguly and Tendulkar putting on 33 runs off 6.3 overs. But the troubles started with Ganguly being held by Gunawardene off Vaas for 17.
Rahul Dravid seemed to have settled down when he was run out for 16 by a direct throw from Sanath Jayasuriya. Dravid's failure to ground his bat cost him dearly. His fall made India 64 for two in the 15th over.
Vinod Kambli also seemed to be shaping well but was also run out for 12. Sent back by Tendulkar when there seemed to be a single, he could not beat Jayasuriya's throw to wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana. The new Indian batting hero Yuvraj Singh did not last long, beaten and bowled by Muthiah Muralitharan's flight and turn when he had scored just seven.
At this stage India were 102 for four in the 24th over but their hopes were revived by Tendulkar and Robin Singh. The two put on exactly 100 runs for the fifth wicket off 22 overs before Robin Singh played a lofted drive off Muralitharan but could not clear Marvan Attapattu. The 37-year-old left hander had batted in exemplary fashion, facing 61 balls for his 35 and hitting only one boundary.
Tendulkar, who had in the meantime, reached his century was run out in the next over following another direct throw, this time from Gunawardene. He faced 140 balls for his 101 and hit just three boundaries, besides a six. That made India 205 for six in the 47th over.
Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar took the score to 222 when in the last over, the former was bowled by Chaminda Vaas. Off the next delivery Vijay Dahiya became the fourth run out victim of the innings and the Indians could not have been very happy at their final total. Vaas and Muralitharan were the pick of the bowlers and finished with two wickets each for 40 and 36 runs respectively.
The Sri Lankans began their reply on a positive note and played attacking cricket throughout. They were off to a disastrous start losing opener Avishka Gunawardene (9) and Marvan Atapattu (0) - both falling to the Vijay Dahiya-Venkatesh Prasad combination with just 21 runs on the board. A timely third wicket partnership off 73 runs between Jayasuriya (48) and Mahela Jayawardene (38) rescued Sri Lanka and helped them stabilise the innings.
The Sri Lankan batsmen, especially Jayasuriya was severe on Prasad, who conceded 37 runs in his first 5 overs. Both the Sri Lankan captain and Jayawardene took full advantage of the field restrictions in the first 15 overs as they scored the runs freely. Even the pace of Zaheer Khan could not unsettle the Sri Lankan players.
Sri Lanka lost Jayasuriya (48 off 53 balls, seven 4s) caught by Yuvraj Singh at point off Agarkar. Nineteen runs later, Jayawardene (38 off 57 balls, two 4s) was bowled by a Kumble top spinner. But the two talented young left-handers Russel Arnold and Kumar Sangakkara did not show any signs of panic. The two ensured that there was no batting collapse with some sensible batting. They added 95 runs for the fifth wicket in 18.3 overs as Sri Lanka finally romped home. Arnold was out to a poor shot trying to play the ball to third man and was taken by Dahiya off Agarkar, giving the Indian wicketkeeper his third catch of the innings. Kaluwitharana (9 not out) joined Sangakkara and the two knocked off the required runs with 6.1 overs to spare.
The Indians were outplayed in every department of the game. The result was disappointing for the Indians came to the tournament after an encouraging show in the ICC Knock-out tournament in Nairobi. India now take on Zimbabwe in their next match on Sunday.