Nearly 16 months after Ambati Rayudu became the third oldest Indian to score a half-century on ODI debut, the stylish Andhra Pradesh batsman slammed his maiden hundred as India crushed Sri Lanka by six wickets in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Rayudu was promoted up the order at number three by Virat Kohli who pushed himself down. That allowed Rayudu the time to set the pace for a sensational knock and he remained unbeaten on 121 off 118 balls. It eclipsed his previous best of 64 not out against England at Nottingham on August 30, 2014. By the end of the day, Rayudu's average had shot up from 38.50 to 48.48. He has now amassed 583 runs from 21 ODIs with four fifties and a hundred.
Rayudu paced his innings beautifully after weathering the early storm and by his own admission, he was not even looking to score a hundred. All he planned to do was remain unbeaten and see India home: "I was not actually looking to get a hundred as such; just tried to stay not out and see the team through and in the process I got to the hundred," Rayudu said.
Rayudu first added 122 runs for the second wicket with Shikhar Dhawan (79) -- India's highest stand for that wicket vs Sri Lanka at Motera, before stitching up a quick 116 for the third wicket with Kohli (49).
This is only the fourth time in ODIs that century stands for the second and third wickets have been recorded for India in the same innings - once each against Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and West Indies.
Rayudu, who said it was a special feeling to get a hundred after such a long wait, also received his first Man of the Match award in ODIs. The 29-year-old from Guntur was captain of the Indian U-19 team that reached the semifinals of the 2004 U-19 World Cup but he reluctantly watched from the sidelines as his other teammates Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik stormed into the senior side and became instant hits.
However, two of those three, Irfan and Karthik have now been pushed back into oblivion and Rayudu, a late bloomer, grabbed his chances with both hands in an impressive display as the world champions chased a score in excess of 275 for the eighth time - the most by them against any team in ODIs.
The selection committee would have to think of really good reasons to keep Rayudu out of the World Cup squad now, even with a fit-again Rohit Sharma ready to reclaim his spot in the Indian team.