CHENNAI: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s heroic unbeaten century under pressure went in vain as Pakistan held their nerve to clinch the first One-day International with a comfortable six-wicket victory in a pulsating contest here on Sunday.
Dhoni played a captain’s knock with an unbeaten 113, his eighth ODI century, to script a brilliant Indian recovery after left-arm pacer Junaid Khan (4-43) exploited the overcast conditions to rip through the top-order and leave the hosts gasping for breath within the first 10 overs.
Dhoni found an able ally in Suresh Raina (43) first and then Ravichandran Ashwin (31 not out) to take the score beyond the 200-run mark which looked doubtful at one stage following the top-order collapse.
Dhoni and Ashwin put on a record seventh wicket partnership of 121 but the Indian captain’s superlative knock off 125 balls lost much of its value as the Pakistani batsmen went about the task of chasing down the target without taking too many risks.
The experienced Younis Khan (58) and Shoaib Malik (34 not out) were the other notable performers for Pakistan.
The Pakistan innings started on a disastrous note as ODI debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced a beauty to get rid of Mohammed Hafeez with the very first delivery of the chase that came back sharply after pitching as the opener didn’t offer a stroke only to find his off-stump knocked back.
The youngster got rid of Azhar Ali a few overs later to reduce the visitors to 21-2. But Younis and Nasir steadied the innings with a solid 112-run third wicket partnership.
Both Nasir and Younis benefitted due to some horrendous decisions given by Indian umpire S. Ravi. Nasir was lucky to get a reprieve on 24 when an inside edge was caught by Virender Sehwag in first slip off Ashwin but the umpire turned down the appeal.
Ravi also negated a plumb leg before decision against Younis when the right-hander missed a delivery from Ashwin in his bid to play the sweep shot.
Younis finally went when Ashwin latched on to a low catch off Ashok Dinda, a decision which was referred to the TV umpire by on-field umpire Billy Bowden. But by that time, the visitors were already in a good position and just needed to bat sensibly to reach the target.
Nasir, who grew in confidence as the innings wore on, was dropped by Yuvraj Singh when on 68 off Dinda much to the disappointment of a sizeable holiday crowd at the Chepauk.
Just when Pakistan seemed to be cruising along comfortably, Ishant Sharma enlivened the proceedings to some extent by getting rid of captain Misbah-ul-Haq (16) with a slower ball which knocked down the off stump.
But it was then left to Malik who hit the winning runs with a pull towards deep mid-wicket boundary off the first ball of the penultimate over.
Earlier, put into bat, India plunged into trouble straightaway with Gautam Gambhir (8), Sehwag (4), Virat Kohli (0), Yuvraj (2) and Rohit Sharma (4) returning to the pavilion in quick succession as Junaid got the ball to swing under overcast conditions.The Pakistani pacers took advantage of the moisture on the track and troubled the top-order batsmen with the new ball. Once the ball got a little older, Dhoni and Raina applied themselves and started rebuilding the Indian innings.
The two teams will now travel to Kolkata for the second ODI to be held on Thursday while the third and final match will be staged at the Ferozeshah Stadium in New Delhi on Jan 6.—Agencies