Opener Lokesh Rahul struck a fluent century as India recovered from early jitters to reach 319 for six at stumps in their first innings to leave the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval in Colombo evenly poised on Thursday.
Opting to bat, the visitors lost opener Murali Vijay (0) and Ajinkya Rahane (4), surprisingly promoted to number three, with only 12 runs on the board before young Rahul (108) and skipper Virat Kohli (78) resurrected the innings with an attractive 164-run third-wicket partnership. Rohit Sharma also chipped in with a strokeful 79 but was dismissed on what turned out to be the last delivery of an engrossing opening day's play which saw both teams sharing the honours.
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The ton was Rahul's second in Tests as he faced 190 balls, hitting 13 boundaries and a six in the process. Kohli, who looked good for another Test ton scored 78 off 107 balls with eight boundaries and a six. The Indian captain was unlucky to miss out on his 12th Test hundred after rival skipper Angelo Mathews took a smart diving catch off Rangana Herath's bowling.
Under-fire Sharma, however, justified the immense faith shown in him by the team management as he somewhat redeemed himself with a stylish knock after his twin failures in the 63-run defeat at Galle. The Indian team management's decision to try Stuart Binny (10) as an all-rounder did not work as the Karnataka player looked totally out of sorts during his 40-ball innings before playing a terrible shot which brought about his downfall.
At stumps, Wriddhiman Saha was unbeaten on 19 as play was called off immediately after Sharma's dismissal.
It was Indian captain Kohli who won the toss and decided to bat on a hard strip that had some bounce and carry.
Vijay, who missed the last Test due to a hamstring injury, had a forgettable comeback as Dhammika Prasad trapped him leg-before with a delivery that came in a shade after pitching in line with the stumps. In order to shield Sharma from the new ball, the dependable Rahane was sent at the crucial number 3 position and he started with a boundary.
However, Prasad got him with an outswinger that he tried to drive on the up and was caught in the slips by Dimuth Karunaratne. It was then that skipper Kohli joined Rahul and the duo started the repair work cautiously but were positive in their strokeplay. Rahul got a reprieve when he was on 11 and made the most of it.