Having won the toss and batted first, Virat Kohli was vindicated as both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan got stuck into the Lanka bowlers on a wicket which was expected to help the bowlers at least in the first session. But sadly, even though Vishwa Fernando did start well, Lahiru Kumara was all over the place and failed to build the pressure from the other end. In fact, Lahiru was so disappointing that skipper Dinesh Chandimal was forced to bring Dimuth Karunaratne into the bowling attack as early as in the 8th over of the match.
And surprisingly, even as the Indians were scoring at 6 runs per over, Karunaratne stemmed the flow of runs and even started to trouble Rahul as he looked edgy. In fact, Rahul ended up skying one, only for Lahiru to this time flop on the field, misjudging the aerial shot completely and dropping the catch. With Rahul getting a life on 28, he looked a completely different batsman after that as he looked to play the balls according to the merit and along with Dhawan kept rotating the strike as well.
At lunch, India’s score read 134/0 with the duo of Rahul and Dhawan bringing up their first 100-run partnership in Test cricket. Also, Rahul joined an elite list of batsmen who scored seven consecutive fifties in Tests. The first session in the bag and their individual scores reading 67 and 64 respectively, the Indian openers looked to start from where they had ended in the first session.
It was all going fine as the duo also managed to register the highest opening stand by any team against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka when they crossed the 171-run mark. The previous record of 171 was held by Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manoj Prabhakar. But just when it looked like both the batsmen were ready to cross the three-figure mark, Rahul threw his wicket away, caught by Karunaratne at mid-on off Pushpakumara’s bowling for 85.
‘Dangerman’ Cheteshwar Pujara came in to join Dhawan in the middle and having tormented the Lankans right through the series, the batsman suddenly started to look out of sorts as the Lankan bowlers dominated proceedings. But Dhawan looked like he was batting on a different wicket as he played like a champion to register his second century of the series, much to the delight of skipper Kohli and the rest of the members in the dressing room.
But the joy in the Indian camp was shortlived as Pushpakumara struck again, this time to send back Dhawan for 119. A full-blooded sweep found Dinesh Chandimal at square-leg and the skipper would make no mistake. India’s score read 219/2 as Kohli walked into the crease. Sandakan struck this time, bowling a beauty to send back Pujara for 8. The ball pitched and turned just at the right time as Pujara edged to Angelo Mathews at first slip. India’s score read 229/3.
Ajinkya Rahane joined Kohli and the two took India to the tea break with the score reading 235/3. The second session clearly belonged to the hosts as they managed to claw back after throwing it all away in the first session. Things didn’t look too bad for the Indians as they started positively after the tea break, but Pushpakumara struck once again against the run of play as he castled Rahane (17) as the vice-captain played down the wrong line.
It was now upto R Ashwin and Kohli to stitch a partnership. But once again the Lankans struck when it mattered most and this time it was the all-important wicket of Kohli (42). A beautifully looped ball from Sandakan found the edge of Kohli’s bat as he looked to drive and Karunaratne picked an easy catch to have India in a slight position of bother at 296/5.
But Ashwin and Saha looked that they would take the visitors home without losing any more wickets. But that wasn’t to be as Ashwin’s resistance finally ended in the 88th over as Fernando was finally rewarded for his quality showing right through the day. An outgoing delivery found the edge of the bat as wicket-keeper Dickwella completed a quality catch and Ashwin walked back having made 31. India’s score read 322/6.
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First Published: August 12, 2017, 5:22 PM IST