CUTTACK - India's poor showing with the white ball, especially in the death overs had been a problem troubling the team as recently as the abandoned series against the West Indies, but their fast bowlers gave a favourable account of themselves during a comprehensive 169-run win over Sri Lanka in their first game of the series on Sunday.
While the batsmen continued to dominate the performances with Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane hitting fluent centuries, it was the pace bowling triumvirate of Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma that impressed under lights and heavy dew at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. An early start to day/night fixtures on account of the dew prompted Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews to put the hosts in to bat, but an extremely good batting surface, coupled by rapid centuries from Ajinkya Rahane (111, 108b, 13x4, 2x6) and Shikhar Dhawan (113, 107b, 14x4, 3x6) took out any advantage the chasing side may have had. The Indian openers added 231 runs in 35 overs, and despite their quick dismissals soon after, the middle order powered them to 363 for 5 in the first game of the five-match contest.  In reply Sri Lanka were bowled out for 194 inside 40 overs, with Ishant picking up 4 for 34 - his best bowling figures in ODI cricket - to highlight an eye-catching performance from the Indian seamers, even though India would be sweating over the status of Aaron, who had hobbled off the field while bowling his fifth over with a thigh strain. While India impressed, Sri Lanka were left to rue their poor bowling performance and the batsmen's inability to put pressure on India's bowlers instead, with only Mahela Jayawardene (43, 36b, 6x4, 1x6) looking comfortable in the middle until hitting straight into Virat Kohli's hands off Akshar Patel.
The Sri Lankan batsmen would have expected some freebies especially early on with the new ball, but Yadav and Aaron began probingly, repeatedly beating the outside edges of both Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan. India's pace bowling duo cranked up the pace from the start and the Sri Lankan openers struggled to time the ball. Dilshan fell to Yadav caught behind for 18 in the ninth over and Sri Lanka had failed to get a move on. Kumar Sangakkara's wicket for 13 made matters worse, and the trend of regular wickets continued right until the last wicket.  Dhammika Prasad and debutant Lahiru Gamage, opening the bowling in the absence of the injured Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara - not picked for this game - had earlier kept the Indian openers quiet as Gamage even slipped in a maiden over, but Rahane and Dhawan hit their groove soon after.
They were also helped by two rare tough chances put down by Kumar Sangakkara, but aside from that they were seldom troubled on a batting paradise.
Run-fests are common in limited overs contests played in India, but what was encouraging in terms of Virat Kohli's captaincy was India's decision to take the batting Powerplay early, allowing the openers to step up the scoring rate between overs 23 and 28. Dhawan and Rahane took 62 runs in those five overs as they capitalized on the fielding restrictions, as opposed to the usual ploy to take the Powerplay towards the latter stages of the game.
Suraj Randiv (3/78) and Ashan Priyanjan managed to pull the hosts back by sending back Rahane and Dhawan respectively, but the damage had already been done. Suresh Raina, playing his 200th one-day international, also completed 5000 ODI runs while scoring a brisk 34-ball 52, before being trapped leg before by Randiv. Quick wickets towards the end didn't allow India to reach that 400-run mark, but Kohli (22), Ambati Rayudu (27) and Akshar Patel (14*) ensured they weren't too far behind.

Scoreboard

INDIA:
AM Rahane c Jayawardene b Randiv     111
S Dhawan b Priyanjan     113
SK Raina lbw b Randiv     52
V Kohli c Perera b Randiv     22
AT Rayudu c Perera b Gamage     27
WP Saha not out     10
AR Patel not out     14
EXTRAS: (lb 5, w 7, nb 2)    14
TOTAL: (5 wickets; 50 overs)    363
FOW: 1-231, 2-247, 3-299, 4-314, 5-344
BOWLING: KTGD Prasad 9-0-60-0, PLS Gamage 9-1-59-1, AD Mathews 4-0-33-0, NLTC Perera 7-0-51-0, S Randiv 10-0-78-3, S Prasanna 6-0-47-0, TM Dilshan 3-0-19-0, SMA Priyanjan 2-0-11-1.
SRI LANKA:
WU Tharanga c Dhawan b Ashwin     28
TM Dilshan c Saha b Yadav     18
KC Sangakkara c Saha b Sharma     13
DPMD Jayawardene c Kohli b Patel     43
S Prasanna c Rahane b Patel     5
AD Mathews c Patel b Raina     23
SMA Priyanjan c Saha b Sharma     12
NLTC Perera c Sharma b Yadav     29
S Randiv b Sharma     5
KTGD Prasad c Saha b Sharma     0
PLS Gamage not out     0
EXTRAS: (lb 4, w 13, nb 1)    18
TOTAL: (all out; 39.2 overs)    194
FOW: 1-31, 2-61, 3-84, 4-109, 5-130, 6-144, 7-167, 8-175, 9-175, 10-194
BOWLING: UT Yadav 6.2-2-24-2, VR Aaron 4.1-0-26-0, I Sharma 8-1-34-4, V Kohli 0.5-0-6-0, R Ashwin 9-0-52-1, AR Patel 6-0-24-2, SK Raina 5-0-24-1.
TOSS: Sri Lanka
UMPIRES: VA Kulkarni and BNJ Oxenford
TV UMPIRE: C Shamshuddin
MATCH REFEREE: DC Boon (Australia)