It was almost certain that Virender Sehwag would not play the series opener after injuring his left ankle during training yesterday. But come toss time, a local scorer included Sehwag's name when he read out the respective XIs. Confusion broke out, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on television, said Sehwag was not playing. After a few moments, the issue was resolved in the press box. The manual scoreboard then listed medium-pacer Munaf Patel as P Patel, clearly another case of mistaken identity. Given India's capitulation, Munaf probably wished it was his Gujarat state-mate Parthiv who was inked in for this game.
It was a while coming. Cricket in the subcontinent took a real fancy to cheerleaders with the advent of the Indian Premier League, where foreign dancers gyrated to the tunes of Bollywood hits to send testosterone levels into uncharted territory. And so, after a lukewarm Test series, the men who matter ushered a bevy of blonde and brunette beauties down to the Emerald Isle for the one-day leg of the tour. Glittering in bright yellow outfits, the cheerleaders flocked to various parts of the stadium and broke into a tizzy every time a boundary was hit or a wicket fell. Hips swayed, fists pumped, and the male fans lapped it up. Dambulla will never be the same again.
After warming up to Sri Lankan conditions with 171 from 121 balls in a practice game, Yuvraj Singh spoke about the need to be positive against Ajantha Mendis. With his trio of medium-pacers bowling accurately to keep India quiet, Mahela Jayawardene waited until the last over of the Powerplays to bring on Mendis. He beat Yuvraj with his first ball, before letting out a boisterous lbw appeal off the next. Yuvraj danced down and sent the third ball over long-on for six. Mendis kept his cool, went back to his mark, and let rip a quick slider. Yuvraj stretched well forward but left a gaping space between bat and pad for the ball to sneak through and disturb his stumps. Mendis raised his hand in celebration while a dumbfounded Yuvraj held his pose for an eternity. When reality set in, he gathered himself and moped off, eyes lingering on the giant screen. Mendis had made a complete fool of him in his first over in ODIs on home soil.
It took a while for a crowd to gather, but when they did, it was pure carnival time. A sea of yellow and blue flooded across the stadium, and frenzy was reached when a band piped near the press box. In no time, trumpets, bugles and drums meshed brilliantly with claps and cheers. The high point was when some Indian fans, the tri-colour draped around their shoulders, joined in with the Sri Lanka posse, led by the fanatic Percy Abeysekara - and the brass band started playing the evergreen Hindi hit tune, 'Yeh dosti, hum nahin thodenge' ['This friendship, we will never break']. Camaraderie doesn't get better than that, never mind that Sri Lanka were thumping India on the field.
Munaf Patel, a bona fide No. 11, came to the middle in the 43rd over, with India at 117 for 9. Jayawardene set a slip and two catching fielders. Munaf had a poke at his first delivery, attempting to dab Muttiah Muralitharan to third man. It didn't work, so he moved onto what he believed would be more productive than cheeky shots. Taking a hand off the bat handle, Munaf swept Murali for four. The crowd cheered, like the way Pakistani fans did for L Balaji in 2004, and Munaf obliged them with a monstrous six, struck off the sweet part of the bat. That shot wouldn't have been out of place in a Major League Baseball game.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo