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CHENNAI: Opener Nasir Jamshed's dogged century overshadowed Man of the Match MS Dhoni’s retaliatory brilliance in a six-wicket win for Pakistan over India in the first ODI at Chepauk on an overcast Sunday. The Indian captain’s fighting 113 not out had pulled India up from a precarious 29/5 to set a respectable 227 target after they were sent in by Misbah ul Haq, but Pakistan’s batting line up proved up to the chase. Jamshed (101*) and Younis Khan (58) added 112 after the loss of two early wickets and a series of fortunate events ensured the target was overhauled with 11 balls to spare. Left-arm fast bowler Junaid Khan had earlier brought India to their knees with his four-wicket haul in the morning.
If Pakistan’s trump card was their pace, India’s undoing was their reliance on part-timers performing the crucial role of a fifth bowler. The visitors were rocked by debutant Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s strikes – including the dangerous Mohammad Hafeez on the first ball of the pursuit – but the slower bowlers surrendered the initiative by giving away 77 in ten overs. It was a patchy chase by the neighbours. Jamshed was handed two reprieves - a poor decision and a dropped catch by Yuvraj Singh - and Shoaib Malik (34) was caught behind off R. Ashwin's no ball. Malik survived again when Virender Sehwag at mid wicket lost his skier in the lights, and in the end Pakistan staggered into the series lead on the back of a decisive 56-run stand between the two. In fact, Dhoni was also dropped by his counterpart Misbah when he had scored 16. Virat Kohli, who twisted his ankle and injured his knee while bowling, was taken off the field late in Pakistan's innings.
Chennai boys to the fore
It was a Chennai Super Kings get together after India’s top half had fallen to the deadly left arm pace of Junaid and Irfan. Dhoni initiated the first installment of damage control with Suresh Raina (43) and completed what he’d begun through dizzying acceleration in the later stages in the company of R. Ashwin (31). The two alliances gained 198 runs – 73 and a record 125 – and were starkly contrasting. The first was a crawl to safety as off-spinners Saeed Ajmal and Hafeez came on and gave nothing away. The second was a tearaway sprint towards a competitive total as a tired Dhoni went for his shots. The feature century too comprised contrasting sections. The first fifty came off 86 balls, while the second took just 39, and by the end of his unbeaten, seventh ODI hundred Dhoni looked as drained as basin with the stopper out. But his tiredness and cramps had had an invigorating effect and his recourse to big shots ensured 81 runs in the last 10 overs, 52 in the last five.
Junaid scythes through
India would have settled for far less when on an overcast morning and a moist pitch Junaid and Irfan clean bowled four of the top five. There was instant drama when play began an hour late. Sehwag didn’t move his feet and lost his off stump; fellow opener Gautam Gambhir drove futilely as the ball rattled into the furniture; Kohli was castled by just the perfect amount of inswing; while Yuvraj was done in by a beauty that whizzed through him before he could get the bat down. Rohit Sharma was the fifth batsman down when he was taken superbly by a diving Hafeez at third slip. The team may well have folded within 100 had it not been for the CSK trio. The India captain was dropped by Misbah at midwicket when he was on 16 and the reprieve made him even more watchful. A long, quiet phase was endured before Hafeez – who had given virtually nothing away – skidded one through Raina on the second ball of the batting Powerplay. With India now six down for 102, Pakistan would have hoped for a quick, decisive end.
Dhoni turns it on
But Ashwin supported his leader ably, allowing the senior batsman to cut loose as the fag end neared. Dhoni smashed a free hit off Irfan for the first six of the innings over long on and then carted Ajmal out of the park. The penultimate over, bowled by the hulking left arm fast bowler, was broken open with successive fours followed by a cover driven six – a shot that gave Dhoni his century in 118 balls. The Jharkhand batsman also crossed 7,000 ODI runs in the match, becoming the seventh Indian to the landmark.
Dream debut, again
After a rocking Twenty20 debut last week, Bhuvaneshwar claimed a wicket on his first ODI delivery when he swung one into the dangerous Hafeez. Pakistan had crawled to 21 after the Powerplay before Kumar jolted them again – No.3 Azhar Ali (9) dragging one outside off to Rohit at midwicket. The young Uttar Pradesh bowler moved the ball both ways and conceded just five in his first five overs. Younis and Jamshed played out the pace battery and accelerated when the part-timers came on.
Yuvraj spills it
Yuvraj went for boundaries, and the batsmen each picked sixes of Suresh Raina as the 100 partnership came up. It took Dinda’s reintroduction and a good catch by Ashwin to get the breakthrough. Younis hit an attempted yorker to mid-wicket where the off-spinner scooped the ball off the ground – a verdict arrived at after some consultation with the third umpire. Dinda could have had another in his next, but Yuvraj dropped a straightforward chance of Jamshed - then on 68 - at point. Although Misbah was out bowled by an Ishant Sharma slower ball with over 50 still needed, Malik made the best of his chances and stayed with Jamshed to the end.