Kumar Sangakkara struck a dazzling half-century to power Sri Lanka to a 29-run victory over India in the first Twenty20 international in Nagpur. Sangakkara hit 78 from 37 deliveries, building sizeable partnerships with Tillakaratne Dilshan (34) and Chamara Kapugedera (47) as Sri Lanka amassed 215 for five.
Opener Gautam Gambhir ensured a bright start to the India response with a knock of 55 from 26 balls, but the chase faltered after his departure. The hosts managed only 186 for nine. MS Dhoni, the India captain, chose to field and Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma gave India a decent start with the ball, the two restricting dangerous openers Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya to only 17 runs from the first four overs.
India's fielding left something to be desired, though, as Yuvraj Singh grassed Jayasuriya on four and Dilshan was dropped on 13 by Ishant, the bowler failing to hold on to a return catch. Jayasuriya smashed Nehra for five boundaries in the left-arm seamer's third over, providing momentum as Sri Lanka scored 43 in the powerplay. Ashok Dinda, playing his first international, then provided the breakthrough by removing Jayasuriya for 26, but Sangakkara swung the game the visitors' way with a blistering show.
The Sri Lanka captain, looking in excellent touch from the start, hammered Pragyan Ojha out of the attack, bludgeoning a six and two boundaries, and reached his half-century off just 21 deliveries by landing consecutive blows off Dinda. India scalped Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene (nine) in quick succession, but Sangakkara found support in Kapugedera, the duo flaying the home attack. Kapugedera, who survived a run-out chance on 23 - Ishant again missing an easy opportunity - hit Nehra for four successive boundaries in the left-arm seamer's final over.
Sangakkara, dropped in the final over, steered Sri Lanka past the 200 mark before he was run out while attempting a second run on the final delivery of the innings. India began their reply with a required rate of just under 11 and Virender Sehwag got off the mark with a boundary. The opener was then dropped at mid-off by debutant Chinthaka Jayasinghe off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara, but he made only 26 before falling to the same bowler.
Gambhir then got the chase under way in earnest, smashing Lasith Malinga for four boundaries in the bowler's first over, India finishing with 77 from the powerplay.The opener reached his fifty in 19 deliveries, but was bowled as he attempted to paddle-sweep Angelo Mathews. Dhoni, who contributed only eight in a 61-run stand with Gambhir for the second wicket, was then sent back to the pavilion by Jayasuriya on nine.
Rohit Sharma was run out for three and Yuvraj (six) capped a poor show in the field with a worse show with the bat, falling to Mathews as Sri Lanka tightened their grip further. Sri Lanka's sharp performance in the field proved the difference as India slipped from 93 for one to 129 for seven. Nehra (22) landed a few hits at the end but his efforts were not enough. * With Agencies