When Bhuvneshwar Kumar arrived at the crease, Akila Dananjaya had India in his web - seven wickets having fallen in the space of seven overs. But the one thing Bhuvneshwar had was time. India were still 100 runs short of the target, with only the tailenders to follow. But thanks in part to a rapid opening stand, 151 deliveries remained in the innings.

The run rate was of little concern. What mattered was conserving his wicket, and gaining the measure of the pitch and the bowling. That is exactly how his batting partner MS Dhoni advised Bhuvneshwar to play.

"When I went in to bat, MS told me to play my natural game like I play in Test cricket," Bhuvneshwar said. "Don't take any pressure as we had a lot of overs at that time and we knew if we played them out, we would chase it easily. So when I went in, there wasn't any pressure really because I knew there is nothing to lose in this situation as we were already seven down. I was just thinking that I can play and that I have to support MS as much as I can. That's what I tried to do."

Perhaps Dhoni's mind went back to India's Test in Nottingham in 2014 or the one in Chennai in 2013, which were the only other occasions in which Bhuvneshwar was part of a century stand in international cricket.

At Pallekele, Bhuvneshwar took 41 balls to move to 10 - at one stage seeing out 17 successive dot balls as he played himself in. The closer India got to their target, the more aggressive he became. He struck two fours off Dananjaya's penultimate over, and even slog-swept Milinda Siriwardana for six as the team closed in. In the end, he surpassed even Dhoni's score to register his first ODI half-century - 53 not out off 80 balls.

"I never thought in my dreams that I would score fifty in one-dayers," Bhuvneshwar said. "Not just fifty, but a match-winning knock because one-day is a kind of format which doesn't suit my batting. I am not the kind of batsman who can hit big sixes. But that kind of situation was perfect for me because it was totally a Test match situation."

In any case, though the situation suited Bhuvneshwar's solid defensive technique, he still had to decrypt Dananjaya, who had fooled far more accomplished batsmen with his googly and his legbreak.

"I had a plan against him," Bhuvneshwar said. "Basically, he is an offspinner but he was also bowling leg-spinners and googlies, so it was a surprise for us. When I went in, I just wanted to play him as someone who bowls googlies, which he was bringing in to me. And whatever was going away from me, I wasn't really worried about that. Whatever wickets he took that was on the googly, the incoming delivery, so my plan was to counter his incoming deliveries. Initially, it was a bit difficult to read him from the hand, but later on, when I played him for 10-15 balls, I could read his variations from the hand."