Yuvraj, Dhoni power India to easy victory

Guwahati, November 5:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh slammed solid half-centuries to guide India to an emphatic five-wicket victory over Pakistan in the first one-day international (ODI) here on Monday.

Skipper Dhoni top-scored with 63 and Yuvraj made 58 as India surpassed Pakistan’s total of 239-7 with 18 balls to spare for a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. Yuvraj and Dhoni took no risks during their 105-run stand for the fourth wicket to ensure an easy win.

Yuvraj hit one six and six fours in his 31st half-century and Dhoni eight fours in his 17th. When Dhoni was caught behind off paceman Shoaib Akhtar, India were just 15 short of win with five wickets in hand. Pakistan earlier rode on impressive half-centuries from middle-order batsman Mohammad Yousuf (83 not out) and opener Salman Butt (50) to reach a respectable total.

Akhtar briefly raised Pakistan’s hopes when he troubled the Indian top order in a sharp four-over opening spell, but was unlucky not to get more than one wicket. His eagerly-awaited duel with Sachin Tendulkar (four) ended early as he trapped the Indian leg-before in his second over.

Akhtar then came close to removing Gambhir early in the batsman’s innings, the ball going between wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal and first-slip Younis Khan and then eluding the outstretched right hand of the slip fielder for fours. The lapses proved costly as Gambhir (44) went on to add 82 for the second wicket with Sourav Ganguly (39).

Harbhajan, Kartik and Tendulkar earlier played major roles in restricting Pakistan. Tendulkar grabbed two crucial wickets, while Harbhajan and Kartik conceded just 65 off their combined 20 overs. Tendulkar dismissed Afridi (31) and Malik (two) just when Pakistan threatened to go for big shots. India looked in command after tight spells from the spin trio, but Yousuf kept his end intact and helped his side score 74 in the closing 10 overs.

Butt, dropped for the recent home one-day series against South Africa, did the bulk of scoring in the initial overs and executed some handsome strokes against new-ball bowlers Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh.