Sachin Tendulkar dismissed any doubts of form and fitness as he registered his 40th One-Day International hundred against the West Indies, in the second match of the DLF Cup tri-series in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
But his comeback hundred was overshadowed by the result: a 29-run victory for the West Indies courtesy the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Electing to bat, India scored 309 for 5. In reply, the West Indies raced to 141 for 2 before rain stopped play. When the D/L calculation was made, the West Indies needed 112 for the loss of two wickets in 20 overs.
Chris Gayle and Brian Lara were instrumental in taking the West Indies to a healthy position before rain intervened.
The 33-year-old Tendulkar, playing his first ODI since February, hammered five sixes and 13 fours to score an unbeaten 141 from 148 balls. He was well-supported by Rahul Dravid (26), Irfan Pathan (65) and Suresh Raina (34).
The West Indies had lost the first match of the tournament, going down by 72 runs to Australia on Tuesday.
India, opening with Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, started the innings under overcast conditions. On winning the toss, the Indian captain elected to bat under natural light, since the team was unsure of the lighting at the venue.
Though the West Indies fast bowlers were unable to entirely trouble the experienced Dravid and Tendulkar, they got the ball to swing, and with some help from the uneven bounce of the pitch were able to create the buzz the early overs generally offer.
Tendulkar, returning to international cricket after an almost six-month lay-off, had a couple lucky escapes in the beginning.
In the second over of the innings, Fidel Edwards induced an edge from him, but the ball fell between a diving wicketkeeper and first slip. The Mumbai batsman also survived a miscued hook shot that flew off the toe of his bat to the fine-leg boundary.
With the help of 10 extras from the bowlers, India notched 37 for no loss in five overs and coasted along at six runs per over in the first ten. But they stumbled in the next five, which fetched just 17 runs and also saw Dravid being dismissed.
Dravid, who had progressed to 26 in his usual, controlled manner, missed the line of a Dwayne Smith delivery and was given out leg before wicket. He and Tendulkar had got India off to a solid start with the 75-run partnership for the opening wicket.
Persistent drizzle stopped play for some time after 15 overs, but Tendulkar came out of the break with a signature straight drive off Ian Bradshaw. He then pounced on a short ball from Smith and pulled it for six.
Once Tendulkar had shaken off the early jitters, the West Indies bowlers looked only a little more threatening than the ones he had faced at Lashings. They strayed to the middle and leg stump, letting the ace batsman craft easy ones and twos on the on-side.
Save a few deliveries that rose up higher than expected, the middle-overs were a stroll for the Indian batsmen in the small Kinrara Oval park.
Edwards ran in hard and fast, and Bradshaw had the ball slide close to the left-handed Irfan Pathan, but the West Indies bowling didn't have sting to hurt Indian batting. Pathan and Tendulkar rolled on to a partnership of 125 from 21.2 overs, amply punctuated by hits to the fence.
Pathan, who was dropped for the last two Tests in the West Indies earlier this year, reportedly because of lack of confidence, was allowed to ease into the game. The left-hander knocked a few meaty blows, as is the job of a pinch-hitter, but his larger role in the batting line-up is evolving. He can strike the ball hard, and with a sound technique also puts a price on his wicket.
He scored 64 off 67 balls, inclusive of six fours and two sixes, before being bowled by Chris Gayle, the ball bouncing off the inside edge onto the stumps.
Tendulkar completed his 40th ODI hundred with a nondescript single to complete another successful comeback to international cricket.
Pathan's wicket brought Virender Sehwag to the wicket, but Taylor halted the show before the fireworks could go off. The ball kept low and sneaked between Sehwag's bat and pads to disturb the stumps. The bowler then followed it up with the wicket of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was out for two.
Tendulkar and Suresh Raina played steadily, running hard between the wickets, before going for the big blows. Raina got into the act with a six straight down the ground, before Tendulkar took Dwayne Bravo apart with two sixes over cover in one over.
Raina was dismissed in the frantic run-search (for 34 in 29 balls) but Tendulkar continued the assault. Bravo and Taylor were dispatched over the boundary ropes as India scored 48 runs in the last four overs.
The fifth-wicket partnership between Raina and Tendulkar cost the West Indies 68 runs off 65 balls.
Gayle, because of his lack of pace, was the only bowler whom India struggled to get past easily. Bradshaw stuck to a consistent line, but was unable to help the West Indies stop the Indian run-flow in the middle overs.
West Indies innings
If India had a breezy start, the West Indies had the winds howling in Kuala Lumpur.
Despite losing Shivanarine Chanderpaul (6) early, the West Indies mounted a mighty challenge to overhaul the Indian total. Chanderpaul, man of the match in the last game against Australia for his 80-ball 90, was out trying to hit R P Singh out of the park. But the ball wasn't hit far enough and Munaf Patel judged the dipping ball on the boundary to post India's first wicket.
But Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, kept the runs cascading, putting up 92 runs in 11 overs at a rate of 8.36 runs per over. Gayle, who had a let-off on 34 as Agarkar misjudged a high catch off RP Sigh, muscled the Indian fast bowlers out of sight.
Irfan Pathan, 22 runs from two overs and R P Singh, 40 runs in four overs, read the scoreboard, as they failed to contain the tall West Indian.
Gayle rattled off nine boundaries, scoring 45 in 35 balls, before he was caught behind off Patel. He tried to square-cut the ball, but with his hands cramped for room, the ball bounced high off the edge and Dhoni completed a good diving catch.
Brian Lara hoisted the first six of the West Indies' innings, stepping down the track to Harbhajan Singh, in a Tendulkaresque drive -- standing tall, head still, elbow pointing towards the bowler, and watching the ball sail long over the sight-screen.
The West Indies had raced to 141 for two in 20 overs. They were in a commanding position against Australia in the first ODI too before losing eight wickets in 29 runs, and the match by 78 runs.