Hyderabad, Oct 14: Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a superb innings under pressure and was ably supported by Suresh Raina as India posted a challenging 300 for seven against England in the first cricket one-dayer here today.
The Indian captain smashed an unbeaten 87 off 70 deliveries on a track where strokemaking wasn"t exactly easy.
He found an able supporter in Raina who hit a 55-ball 61 after India opted to bat on winning the toss.
The last 15 overs yielded a whopping 150 runs as one got a glimpse of vintage Dhoni. The now famous 'Helicopter shot" fetched him plenty of runs as he hit 10 boundaries and a six en route his 42nd half century in ODIs. The innings assumed significance considering the amount of pressure he was in after England tour.
India were scoring runs at a sedate pace for the first 35 overs partly to the dual nature of the surface and also some disciplined bowling by the visitors before the duo started the hammering of the England bowlers adding 72 runs for the fifth wicket in only 10 overs.
Once Raina departed, Dhoni took it upon himself to punish the English bowlers who suddenly lacked discipline after bowling well for the better part of the innings.
It was Raina whose counter-attack in the mandatory batting Powerplay from 36th to 40th opened the floodgates as India scored 59 runs in those five overs. Raina hit his customary aerial shots in the arc between extra cover and mid-wicket while Dhoni also hammered Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan with consummate ease.
Raina completed his half century with a six off Bresnan"s bowling and was trying to hit a slog shot. His 61 had five fours and two sixes.
Opting to bat first on a wicket which offered variable bounce to the England pacers, the Indian batsmen especially Ajinkya Rahane (15) made a complete mess of the first mandatory Powerplay when India managed only 47 runs losing Parthiv Patel"s wicket.
Parthiv backed a bit too far after Rahane hit a straight drive off Steven Finn but the bowler got a hand to it on his follow through. Parthiv managed only nine.
The stage was set for Rahane to fire after he got a "life" in the very second over as Jonathan Trott at first slip dropped him off Finn"s bowling. Rahane was yet to open his account then.
However, the Mumbai youngster went into a shell and found it difficult to even push through the gaps for single.
Gautam Gambhir, playing his first international match after a long time, hit a few crisp shots including a square drive off Bresnan. The Delhi left-hander showed intent of keeping the scoreboard ticking although the boundaries were few and far between.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann was introduced as early as 12th over. With two new balls being used from both ends, it effectively meant that Swann was bowling with a white kookaburra that was only five overs old.
Eager to break the shackles, Rahane charged out only to be deceived by Swann"s flighted delivery that turned a shade away and it was easy work for Craig Kieswetter behind the stumps. Rahane consumed 41 balls and more so India"s advantage of getting off to a flier was gone.
Gambhir was joined by Virat Kohli but the Delhi duo failed to up the ante. Medium pacer Jade Dernbach dismissed Gambhir during the second over of the bowling Powerplay taken by the England captain.
It was slow full-toss coming from the back of the hand and Gambhir completely missed the line of the ball. He was hit on the pads and the ball would have crashed into the leg-stump. The bowling Powerplay also proved to be fruitful for England as they conceded only 20 runs. Gambhir managed 32 off 33 balls with four hits to the fence.
The normally aggressive Kohli was also not in his element and was out trying to launch into left-arm spinner Samit Patel as he failed to clear Kevin Pietersen at long off.
At 123 for four, Raina was joined by skipper Dhoni as the duo started the repair job. They waited patiently and took the batting Powerplay from 36th to 40th over to launch a counter attack on English bowlers which helped them in reaching a challenging score.
Swann, with figures of one for 35, was the only bowler who escaped unscathed from Dhoni and Raina"s onslaught as Finn (1/67), Bresnan (0/66) and Dernbach (1/58) were smashed all over the park in the last 15 overs.