Dhoni, Gambhir help India take series lead

Dambulla: An unflappable Mahendra Singh Dhoni led by example as India relied on a clinical all-round display to thrash Sri Lanka by six wickets and take a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series in Dambulla on Wednesday.

Chasing 247, India rode on substantial contributions from Gautam Gambhir (62) and Suresh Raina (54) before losing both the set batsmen but Dhoni (61 not out) was his composed self as he guided the team to victory with 11 balls to spare.

The ageing Sanath Jayasuriya's 28th ODI century went in vain as the Indians never allowed the islanders to break loose on a slow track. Kumar Sangakkara contributed 44 as Sri Lanka posted 246 for seven wickets in their allotted 50 overs.

Both the teams now move to Colombo for the second match on Saturday.

This was India's sixth ODI win in a row, coming after their 5-0 whitewash of England at home.

With a hip injury keeping Virender Sehwag out of action and Sachin Tendulkar (5) back in the hut in the fourth over, the chase on a sluggish track was far from easy. But with Gambhir and Raina on song, India hardly had a reason to worry.

The left-handed duo went on to stitch together a 113-run stand for the second wicket which laid the perfect foundation for a successful chase, besides offsetting the setback of losing Tendulkar early in the innings.

Thilan Thushara's ball had pitched bit outside the leg stump before rapping Tendulkar's pad and Kumar Dharmasena, making his ODI debut as umpire, took his time before upholding the vociferous appeal.

The Gambhir and Raina partnership laid the patform for the other batsmen as the visitors chased down the highest-ever total at this venue which has so far hosted 26 matches. Gambhir and Raina, however, were a trifle lucky.

Early in his innings, a diving Nuwan Kulasekara apparently caught Gambhir off his own bowling but repeated replays proved inconclusive and the Delhi left-hander eventually had the benefit of doubt.

Raina, on his part, was spilled at point by Tillakaratne Dilshan off Thushara when he was on seven.

But once they got their eyes in, there was no stopping the Indians. Gambhir milked the Lankan attack with consummate ease and often stepped out to unsettle them. A streaky boundary off Dilshan brought up his fifty but his audacious bid to hit Muttiah Muralitharan out of the park saw him perish at long-off.