Pallekele: India and Sri Lanka both enjoyed their periods of dominance on the opening day of the third Test between the two nations at the International Cricket Stadium here Saturday. India took the opening honours with Shikhar Dhawan (119, 123b, 17×4) getting his second century of the series and sixth overall in Tests and KL Rahul (85, 135b, 8×4) scoring his seventh consecutive half century to put up a opening stand of 188 runs in 39.2 overs.
However, those that thought India would run away with the match were in for a rude shock as the hosts with their trio of left-arm bowlers hit back hard. In the next 50.2 overs India could only muster 141 for six to end the day at 329 for six.
Left-arm spinners Malinda Pushpakumara (3/40) and Lakshan Sandakan (2/84) bowled with guile to have India’s famed middle-order tied in a web and then late in the day, left-handed fast bowler Vishwa Fernando sent back Ravi Ashwin (31, 75b, 1×4) to a stunning one-handed catch by Niroshan Dickwella behind the stumps, to add to India’s woes. At stumps Wriddhiman Saha (13 batting) and Hardik Pandya (one batting) were holding the fort.
Keeping in mind, the condition of the pitch which has already started taking turn albeit slowly, India would have gladly accepted the score they are at present. However, from 188 without loss to 329 for six was indeed a downward slide and quite unexpected.
But then Pushpakumara and Sandakan had other ideas. After the departure of Rahul, caught at mid-on as he failed to meet the ball from Pushpakumara on the full, things changed drastically for the visitors. Dhawan was snapped up brilliantly by Dinesh Chandimal at square-leg again off Pushpakumara and from then on the hosts took control.
Pujara, for once did not look his usual composed self and fell cheaply. Skipper Virat Kohli (42, 84b, 3×4) never appeared his usual confident self as he tried to fight his way out of trouble. But then he played away from a Sandakan delivery and the ball turned to take a healthy edge and fly to first slip as a regulation catch. Sri Lanka had by then established their sway over the game.
Keeping in mind, India’s lower-order strength, a few more runs are definitely on the cards for them. Anything over 375 will be a real bonus as like in the first two Tests, Sri Lanka will again have to bat last. That won’t be easy.