Dhoni defiance not enough for India
A fighting century from India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni proved in vain as Pakistan sauntered to a six-wicket win in the first one-day international in Chennai.
After Junaid Khan had torn through India’s top order with four early wickets, Dhoni’s unbeaten 113 lifted the hosts from 29 for five to 227 for six.
However, that total was well within the reach of Pakistan after opener Nasir Jamshed and Younus Khan shared a composed partnership of 112 for the third wicket.
Younus was well caught at midwicket by Ravichandran Ashwin for 58, but Jamshed finished unbeaten on 101 from 132 balls as victory was completed with 11 deliveries to spare.
For a time, it looked as though Pakistan would be chasing a meagre target as India crumbled upon losing a toss that had been delayed by an hour due to overnight rain.
Junaid and fellow left-arm seamer Mohammad Irfan delivered an irresistible display up front and India’s frailty against the moving ball was ruthlessly exposed.
Virender Sehwag lost his off stump to Junaid when driving away from his body and Gautam Gambhir was cleaned up by Irfan.
Junaid then bowled two more batsmen as Virat Kohli drove down the wrong line before Yuvraj was beaten for pace.
When Rohit Sharma was caught at third slip by Hafeez, India were in complete disarray.
Yet, after he had survived an early chance to Misbah-ul-Haq at midwicket, Dhoni stayed calm in the face of extreme pressure and found a willing ally in Suresh Raina, who contributed 43 from 88 balls.
Raina was eventually bowled by Hafeez, but Ravichandran Ashwin added 31 not out and Dhoni accelerated impressively in the closing stages of his innings, despite being hampered by cramp.
Pakistan then lost Hafeez to the first ball of the reply when he shouldered arms to an inswinger from ODI debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who duly had Azhar Ali caught at fine-leg for nine.
India’s hopes gradually faded, however, as Jamshed and Younus operated at the perfect tempo, mixing the occasional boundary with good rotation of the strike.
Both batsmen cleared the ropes off Raina in the 29th over, with the first six heralding Younus’ fifty and the second bringing up the century stand.
Ashok Dinda returned to the attack to oust Younus soon after, but a crucial moment followed in the seamer’s next set of six as Yuvraj spilled a simple chance at point when Jamshed had 68 to his name.
Although Ishant Sharma bowled Misbah with a slower ball, Pakistan had little trouble thereafter and there was further concern for India when Kohli was forced to leave the field after seemingly injuring his right knee when bowling.
To rub salt into the hosts’ wounds, Shoaib Malik was caught behind off Ashwin for eight, only for replays to show the bowler had overstepped.
Malik duly struck the winning boundary to reach 34 not out.
The three-match series resumes at Kolkata on Thursday.