Shikhar Dhawan, veteran of many a Indian success story in white ball cricket, led from the front in his first ever outing as a stand-in captain with an unbeaten 86 as India extended their domination over Sri Lanka with a seven-wicket win in the first of their three-match ODI series in Colombo on Sunday.
The last time the Men in Blue lost a one-dayer against the Islanders in Sri Lanka was nearly a decade back in 2012 - and even the diehard Lankan supporters were not expecting any twist in the script on a humid evening. A new-look Lankan team, however, did their best to rake up a fighting score of 262 for nine but it was almost a walk in the park for India as they overhauled the target in 36.4 overs.
While Dhawan anchored the innings with a controlled half-century off 95 deliveries, his 33rd in ODIs, young wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan struck his first half-century in ODI debut with an attacking 59 off 42 balls, which included eight boundaries and two sixes. Prithvi Shaw, who was the aggressor in a 58-run opening stand with his captain, scored a silken 43 off 24 balls.
Earlier, lower-order batsman Chamika Karunaratne hit a quickfire 43 to lift Sri Lanka to 262 for nine when the hosts were struggling to reach the 250-mark.
Batting at number eight, Karunaratne put on a key 18-ball stand of 40 for the ninth wicket with Dushmantha Chameera, who was run out for 13 on the final ball of the innings.
Sri Lanka were off to a brisk start after they elected to bat at the start of the limited-overs series delayed by the coronavirus.
The hosts were hit by Covid-19 after the team returned from their tour of England with batting coach Grant Flower testing positive for the virus.
Dasun Shanaka, who was appointed captain after regular skipper Kusal Perera was out due to injury, topscored with 39 as he put on a partnership of 49 for the fifth wicket with Charith Asalanka, who scored 38.
But Indian bowlers kept picking wickets after leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal struck on his first ball when spin was introduced in the 10th over. He sent back Avishka Fernando for 32.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav struck twice in one over to push Sri Lanka on the back foot and pace bowler Deepak Chahar also took two wickets.
But Karunaratne took the attack to the opposition bowlers towards the end to smash two sixes and one four in his 35-ball blitz as Sri Lanka got 32 runs from the last two overs.
The second ODI of the three-match series is scheduled on Tuesday.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 262 for nine off 50 overs (A. Fernando 32, C. Asalanka 38, D. Shanaka 39, C. Karunaratne 43; D. Chahar 2/37, Y. Chahal 2/52, K. Yadav 2/48) vs India 263/3 off 36.4 overs (S. Dhawan 86 n.o., P. Shaw 43, I. Kishan 59). India won by seven wickets.