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Sehwag finally brings his Test form to ODIs

Virender Sehwag has had something of a lean spell in one-dayers, which came to an end with a match-winning unbeaten 99 against Sri Lanka

Virender Sehwag goes on the attack, Sri Lanka v India, tri-series, 3rd ODI, Dambulla, August 16, 2010

Virender Sehwag's unbeaten 99 is his highest score in ODIs this year  •  AFP

In the midst of one of his purplest patches in Test cricket, Virender Sehwag has had something of a lean spell in one-dayers, which came to an end with a match-winning unbeaten 99 against Sri Lanka on Monday. In ODIs, Sehwag has generally struggled to maintain the outstandingly high standards of his Test career, but the difference this year has been stark. He has run up four hundreds and three half-centuries in seven Tests this year, while his highest score in one-dayers in 2010 had been 47.
On Monday, he finished the innings with a strike-rate nudging a run a ball, but this was by no means the usual top-gear Sehwag innings. With the ball zipping about under the Dambulla lights, it was initially all about patience. Nuwan Kulasekara tested him with a bunch of indippers, several of which Sehwag inside-edged towards the leg side, while Dinesh Karthik bore the brunt of Lasith Malinga's opening burst. It was as late as the sixth over that he got his first boundary, a back-foot square drive off Kulasekara.
"The ball was doing something in first 10 overs," Sehwag said after the match, "so I batted cautiously and tried to build partnerships, and after that I played my shots. I was not worried about runs, I knew if I batted 30-40 overs, then match will get over in 40 overs, I just tried to not play the rash shot."
After the safety-first beginning in difficult conditions, Sehwag was subjected to an examination of his technique against the short ball aimed at his body, an area sometimes seen as a chink in his game. Dilhara Fernando slipped in a bouncer an over to Sehwag, who was hit on the glove off the first one, but thereafter he either confidently ducked under them or got behind the line and defended.
Meanwhile, several of the young guns of India's batting had misfired to leave the side fumbling at 32 for 3 by the 11th over. Memories of the limp capitulation to New Zealand were still fresh, but Sehwag was determined to ensure there was no repeat.
"We discussed in the meeting that someone has to play 30-40 overs, especially someone from the top order," Sehwag said. "I was just trying to play as long as I can, I was just waiting for some loose deliveries to hit for four."
There was more cagey batting from Sehwag and Suresh Raina, and it was only around the 18th over that a flurry of boundaries started to ease Indian fans anxieties. A delightful along-the-ground on-drive, a slash past point and a flick through midwicket from Sehwag contributed to 26 runs in three overs and India were soon halfway to the target.
Raina picked out Upul Tharanga in the deep and the stand was snapped at 59, but MS Dhoni was in his unflappable one-day avatar, picking off the singles to provide Sehwag company and ease India along.
It was only towards the very end of the match that Sehwag switched to the buccaneer mode that is his default setting. Amid the bunch of boundaries, he smashed sixes off Angelo Mathews and Suraj Randiv and the only interest after the 30th over was whether he would get to a century.
There wasn't to be one as Randiv overstepped by at least a foot when the scores were level to leave Sehwag on 99 and spark a controversy. The batsman later claimed Randiv had deliberately no-balled to deny him a hundred, though Kumar Sangakkara denied it had been intentional.
Sehwag was happy that India collected the win and bonus point, and credited his short trip home during the five-day break between matches for helping him stay fresh. "Breaks always help, it was a great break for me, spent time with my family, refreshed my mind, refreshed my body, came back and played good cricket."

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo