Guwahati, Nov 5: India registered a convincing 5-wicket victory against Pakistan in the first ODI of the five-match series. Irfan Pathan (5) and Robin Uthappa (11) were the unbeaten batsmen when the hosts knocked off the target of 240 with 3 overs to spare. The result gives India a handy 1-0 lead in the series. The second ODI will be played at Mohali, Chandigarh on November 8.
Dhoni (63) and Yuvraj (58) put a match-winning partnership of 105 runs to ensure India romped home to victory without too many troubles. The target was a tricky one, considering the sluggish nature of the pitch. The spinners were expected to play a vital role but Afridi (1/34), Rehman (1/54) and Malik (0/15) did not reap any substantial success.
Dhoni was caught behind by Kamran Akmal off Akhtar"s bowling in the 45th over, but the Indian captain who scored his 17th ODI fifty, had already set up the victory, with just a further 15 runs required at the time of his dismissal. Shoaib Akhtar (2/52) proved to be expensive but bowled with a good rhythm.
Yuvraj Singh struck 6 boundaries and a six in his 31st ODI fifty before the left-hander attempted to sweep Abdur Rehman for a six over the on side but managed to find Afridi at deep mid wicket. But India"s vice-captain had already given the knock out blow to Pakistan.
Sachin Tendulkar (4) fell early when he was wrapped on the pads and adjudged LBW against Akhtar in the very third over of the innings. A resolute innings from Sourav Ganguly (39) and some fluent strokeplay from Gautam Gambhir (44) ensured that the hosts milked the runs and didn"t face any hiccups during the powerplay period. India was at ease, placed on 111/2 at the end of 20 overs.
Captain Dhoni promoted himself ahead of Yuvraj and Uthappa after the fall of Ganguly"s wicket. Ganguly and Gambhir 82 runs for the second wicket before the former Indian captain was run out, lazily trying to regain his crease after being sent back by his partner.
At the halfway mark, India was well on target at 133 for 3, with Yuvraj and Dhoni ensuring the flow of runs was maintained. Explosive young batsman Robin Uthappa was the only recogised batsman to follow – which kept the opposition in the hunt at all times.
Shoaib Malik won the toss and elected to bat first. Talisman Mohammad Yousuf (83*) guided his team to a respectable total of 239/6 at the end of 50 overs. It look a late flourish from Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq (27) to catapult Pakistan to a total in excess of 230, especially after the team appeared unhurried at 165/4 at the end of 40 overs. The last ten overs yielded a productive 74 runs for the visiting team.
Yousuf played a very patient knock and paced his innings very wisely on a pitch that didn"t offer free flowing strokeplay. Pakistan"s most experienced batsman struck only 7 boundaries in his 58th ODI fifty.
The Indian spinners were the standout bowlers – Harbhajan Singh (1/29), Murali Kartik (0/36) and Sachin Tendulkar (2/33) ensured that the match was firmly in the hosts" control.
Shahid Afridi (31) was promoted up the order to number five – in an attempt to amplify the slow run-rate at the end of 30 overs. The explosive all-rounder scored at a run-a-ball but found it hard to gather any considerable impetus.
India three left-arm fast bowlers Zaheer (1/50, RP Singh (0/42) and Pathan (1/45) bowled excellent first spells but proved to be rather expensive with the older ball.
An early morning start to the most anticipated series kicked off in scintillating fashion with Pakistan opener Salman Butt stroking 8 beautiful boundaries in quick succession to bring up his 5th ODI half-century. The visitors lost the momentum following a series of setbacks – Butt was dismissed run-out after some misunderstanding with Younus Khan, who sent him back after calling for a quick single.