Sachin Tendulkar gave glimpses of his vintage form with a scorching 93 as India comprehensively beat Sri Lanka by 152 runs in the first one-day international at the VCA ground, in Nagpur, on Tuesday.
After winning the toss and rattling up a mammoth 350 for 6, thanks to a collective onslaught by most of the top order batsmen, spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik stole┬áthe spotlight with three wickets each to bundle out the visitors for 198 in 35.4 overs and give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the seven-match series.
Tendulkar, who returned to the international arena after a six-month injury lay-off, set the tone with his 96-ball knock while Irfan Pathan (83) and captain Rahul Dravid (85 not out) were the other notable Indian batsmen on what appeared a good batting track.
Mahinder Singh Dhoni then provided the late sparks to the innings, the highest-ever total recorded in the ground, with a quickfire 28-ball 38 to leave the Islanders in a complete daze, as even Muttiah Muralitharan failed to make much of an impact.
The Sri Lankans lost captain Marvan Atapattu (1) early but kept themselves in the chase with a rollicking 64-run second-wicket partnership between Sanath Jayasuriya (27) and Kumara Sangakkara (43).
But Jayasuriya's dismissal in the 11th over completely changed the complexion of the game as the Lankan middle order collapsed like a deck of cards, falling prey to the guiles of Harbhajan (3/35) and Kartik (3/48).
Young seamer S Sreesant, who was given his India cap earlier in the day, claimed two wickets for 39 runs off 5.4 overs.
India got off to a flier with Virender Sehwag looking in fine nick and Tendulkar showing glimpses of his old form as the two put together 41 at a-run-a-ball before the former lost his wicket to impetuosity.
Sehwag struck four hits to the fence in his 25-ball innings before edging veteran Lankan left arm seamer Chaminda Vaas to wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara while trying an audacious heave on the off.
The Indian think tank sprang a surprise by sending up Pathan, who has never batted higher than No. 7 in his fledgling ODI career, at the fall of Sehwag. But he rose to the new challenge with aplomb.
The move clicked as Pathan took over the attacking reins and smashed the Lankan bowlers all around in the company of Tendulkar, who last played an ODI against Pakistan at Delhi in April, after which he underwent elbow surgery in May.
While Tendulkar, who started off with two glorious fours off successive balls from medium pacer Farveez Maharoof in the second over of the innings -- after Sehwag had struck the bowler for two fours in the same over -- slowly opened out with some lofted shots, including two over the ropes, Pathan was in an ebullient mood right from the start.
Tendulkar raced to his 70th half century, and 12th against the Lankans in 55 matches, in his 349th ODI with a single to mid-off off Muttiah Muralitharan in as many balls and with the help of seven fours and a flicked six off big Lanka paceman Dilhara Fernando.
Tendulkar survived a close run-out appeal after responding to a sharp call for a single from his 20-year-old partner before the Indian 100 was raised in the 17th over, with Pathan too getting runs at a fast clip.
Pathan, who hit Vaas for a six over long on, slammed off-break bowler Tilakaratne Dilshan over the mid-wicket fence for his second six before reaching his third half century in only 41 balls, inclusive of six fours and two sixes.
The Baroda player, who will celebrate his 21st birthday in two days, had earlier scored 64 against Pakistan at Jamshedpur while batting at number 8, in March, and made 50 at No. 9 against New Zealand in Bulawayo during India's last tri-series in Zimbabwe.
Even as Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu rung in quick bowling changes to break this stand, the duo carried on in glorious fashion in front of a big, appreciative crowd to complete their century stand in 90 balls.
Pathan went into over-drive when leg spinner Upul Chandana was brought into the attack when the score had reached 150. He took 17 runs in the over, with the help of two straight sixes, the second of which ended up in the second tier of the stands, after hitting the bowler for a straight four off the first ball.
Tendulkar, who was playing second fiddle after reaching his half century, lofted Dilshan wide of long-on for his second six before being troubled by leg cramps when on 89.
Just as the two batsmen looked to have gained complete hold on the proceedings, they fell in the space of three balls from each other.
Pathan got a leading edge to an attempted drive off Dilshan and was caught at backward point while Tendulkar was caught behind while trying to drive a ball that moved away a bit from Maharoof, whose first over had cost 17 runs.
The Indian run-rate dipped a bit after the duo's departure but Dravid (8x4, 1x6) and Dhoni (38 off 28; 3x4, 2x6) then put together another rollicking stand.
The fifth wicket pair put on 69 runs in only 51 balls after coming together in the 39th over of the innings.
Dravid slammed 18 runs in the last over to ensure India reached the 350-run mark.
The Lankan bowlers wilted under the belligerent assault and the placid nature of the track. The fielding too fell some way short of their high standards.
Earlier, India capped young Kerala pace bowler S Sreesanth and made Murali Kartik the super sub while Lanka made Dilhara Lokuhittige their super sub. Lanka decided to have the field restrictions in the first 20 overs at a stretch.
Sri Lanka innings
The visitors' run-chase, after being set an asking rate of 7.02 by the Indians, whose total surpassed the previous best of 348 for 8, made by New Zealand in 1995-96 at this venue, went haywire once Jayasuriya, who struck six fours, and Sangakkara departed in the space of two overs.
Jayasuriya spooned a drive straight to Dravid at short extra cover in the 11th over, Harbhajan's first, and then in the next over Sangakkara was deceived by Virender Sehwag's extra bounce and turn and gave a tame return catch as Lanka slid to 76 for 3 from 74 for one in very little time.
Then Harbhajan struck two blows in four balls to send back the promoted Upul Chandana (3) and Russel Arnold (0) and the tourists were on their knees.
Mahela Jayawardene, the vice-captain departed after being castled in trying an injudicious reverse sweep against super sub Murali Kartik and the Lankans were looking down the barrel.
Kartik and Harbhajan ensured that the lower order of the visitors did not prosper as it happened in their last few encounters in Lanka, though Chaminda Vaas (37 not out) and super Sub Dilhara Lokuhettige (29) tried their level best to keep their side in the fight till the end with a 63-run ninth wicket stand.