Pallekele: India looked to dominate the proceedings in Pallekele on the first day but this time, the Sri Lankan bowlers did not let them have it easy.
Openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan began positively and they went on to make full use of the dropped chances that came their way. The duo went on to stitch a solid 188-run opening partnership and it looked as if they would run away with the game. But Rahul mistimed a lofted shot of the bowling of Malinda Pushpakumara and it was caught safely by Dimuth Karunaratne.
He was dismissed for 85, which is his seventh consecutive fifty-plus score in Test cricket and he is now on par with the likes of Everton Weekes, Kumar Sangakkara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Andy Flower and Chris Rogers.
Shikhar Dhawan, at the other end was at his aggressive best as he smacked a total of 17 fours en route to his 119, which took him to his sixth test century and fifth outside India. He also joins Rahul Dravid as the only Indian openers to have registered two centuries in overseas conditions.
But after Dhawan was dismissed, the Sri Lankans made sure that they didn’t let Pujara settle down and dismissed him cheaply for just eight runs. But skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane got together to help India stay on track for a huge first innings total but Pushpakumara ended the latter’s stay at the crease on 17.
Kohli looked all set for a big score but missed out on a half-century by eight runs after he was sent back to the pavilion by left-arm Chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan.
Ravichandran Ashwin then came to the crease and played a 31-run knock but Vishwa Fernando dismissed him with the Indian scoreboard at 322/6. But wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (13*) and Hardik Pandya (1*) ensured that there were no more jitters for India as they ended the day at 329/6.
The Sri Lankan bowling attack indeed did a good job as they had entered the test without two of their main bowlers-Rangana Herath and Nuwan Pradeep. Although Rahul and Dhawan gifted their wickets playing rash shots, the spin duo of Sandakan (2/84) and Pushpakumara (3/40) did well to keep the Indian batting in check.
It would be interesting to see what total the Indians end on when they continue their first innings on the second day.