A run feast

Sourav Ganguly is in a belligerent mood. The opener came up with a masterly 98.-AP

Six hundred and sixty two runs for the loss of 11 wickets. The Pepsi Cup series couldn't have had a better start, writes G. Viswanath.

Curator Kishore Pradhan, a versatile man, described the Nagpur pitch, before the start of the match in one line. "It will produce in excess of 300 runs in each innings."

Minutes after Shivnarine Chanderpaul flayed the Indian attack, the West Indies skipper Brian Lara praised Pradhan's effort, saying "it's the job of the cricketers (batsmen) to entertain the public and both the teams achieved that."

India won an evenly contested match and the team management hoped that the wickets for the World Cup, in the Caribbean Islands, would be of the same nature.

A number of matches have been played on the VCA wicket and there seems to be not much of a wear and tear on the pitch, thanks to the devoted work of Pradhan and his staff. It was a tough day for the bowlers of both the teams.

Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir had a rollicking stand. But in the early part of their innings Ian Bradshaw beat them once. India's opening pair took 14 runs off Jerome Taylor's first over and this clearly showed that the batsmen would rule the roost.

A run feast followed with Ganguly, recalled to the one-day team after 15 months, making an impressive 98. The former India captain, wearing Suresh Raina's shirt, essayed a wild swipe at Taylor and took a nasty blow on his left elbow.

But he recovered his poise quickly and continued his innings with rasping shots over the top of the in-field and a couple of them went over the boundary line as well. His partner, Gambhir, made a fine half century. The pair put on 144 runs.

With Lara not using the power plays and the field being scattered, Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar had to earn their runs.

But after Ganguly's departure, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the darling of the crowd, with his flamboyant innings.

The Indian skipper, Rahul Dravid, too exploded. He cover drove and followed it up with a superlative six over cover _ clean cricketing shots _ and another six over point.

Dhoni and Dravid were involved in a superb stand of 119 runs that came off just 71 balls. The team ultimately made 338.

Gayle and Chanderpaul's counterattack sent out a clear message that the West Indies was going for the target in right earnest.

Gayle's swashbuckling half century and Lara's superb acceleration kept the West Indies in the hunt. Despite the fall of Windies' captain, Chanderpaul continued to attack and connected almost everything that was directed at him. The Indian bowlers tried everything to unsettle the left-hander, but failed.

In the end, he remained unconquered, though his team fell short by 14 runs. Chanderpaul won the Man of the Match award for his extraordinary effort.

In all, four maiden overs were bowled and the three seamers conceded over 70 runs in 10 overs each. "We felt we were in control of the match after the fall of Gayle and Runako Morton,'' said Dravid. But if there was a turning point in the match, it was the fall of Lara to Tendulkar.

Six hundred and sixty two runs for the loss of 11 wickets provided a great start to the Pepsi Cup series.

THE SCORES

First ODI, Nagpur, January 21, 2007. India won by 14 runs.

India: G. Gambhir c Samuels b Gayle 69; S. Ganguly (run out) 98; S. Tendulkar lbw b Gayle 31; M. Dhoni (not out) 62; R. Dravid (not out) 54; Extras (b-5, lb-8, w-11) 24. Total (for three wkts in 50 overs) 338.

Fall of wkts: 1-144, 2-214, 3-219.

West Indies bowling: Bradshaw 6-0-43-0; Taylor 10-0-71-0; Samuels 10-0-53-0; Powell 5-0-32-0; Gayle 9-1-51-2; Bravo 4-0-41-0; Smith 6-0-34-0.

West Indies: C. Gayle c Dravid b Harbhajan 52; S. Chanderpaul (not out) 149; R. Morton b Harbhajan 8; M. Samuels b Zaheer 40; B. Lara st. Dhoni b Tendulkar 31; D. Bravo c Dhoni b Zaheer 16; D. Smith b Agarkar 1; D. Ramdin c Gambhir b Sreesanth 7; I. Bradshaw (run out) 0; J. Taylor (not out) 1; Extras (lb-9, w-5, nb-5) 19. Total (for eight wkts in 50 overs) 324.

Fall of wkts: 1-80, 2-102, 3-175, 4-241, 5-264, 6-269, 7-304, 8-319.

India bowling: Zaheer 10-2-48-2; Sreesanth 10-0-79-1; Agarkar 10-1-75-1; Harbhajan 10-0-59-2; Tendulkar 10-0-54-1.