Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul show for India before Sri Lanka bowlers hit back on Day 1
Shikhar Dhawan (119) and KL Rahul (85) recorded the highest opening stand for Indian cricket team in Sri Lanka before chinaman bowler Malinda Pushpakumara’s triple strikeindia vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 12, 2017 19:08 IST
After an exhilarating record opening stand between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, Sri Lanka fought back through spinners Malinda Pushpakumara and Lakshan Sandakan to share the honours on the first day of the third Test at the Pallekele International Stadium on Saturday. (SL vs IND DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS)
Dhawan and Rahul started with a bang, sharing 188 runs for the opening wicket, but it proved a day of two halves. The left-handed batsman continued his domination of the Sri Lankan attack with his second hundred of the series, and sixth of his career, as the openers made the bowling look ordinary and the wicket great for batting.(SL vs IND DAY 1 SCORECARD)
But after their exit, Sri Lanka came back to claim six wickets. At stumps, India were 329 for six and will be hoping for another solid contribution from their lower order to put pressure on the home team. After Malinda Pushpakumara and Lakshan Sandakan shared the spoils, pacer Vishwa Fernando struck a late blow, ending R Ashwin’s stubborn resistance for 31 runs.
With the Sri Lankan bowlers all fired up, it won’t be easy for Wriddhiman Saha and Hardik Pandya, the seventh wicket pair at the crease.
After Virat Kohli won the toss for the third straight time, Dhawan and Rahul cashed in on the wayward bowling of the home team to help India race to 134 for no loss in 27 overs at lunch.
At that stage the hosts looked they were in for another long haul, but the top-order batsmen were guilty of gifting away their wickets in the second session to the relief of the home fans.
Dhawan gave away his wicket at the score of 119 (123 balls, 17 fours) when he made a casual attempt at hitting left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara, to be caught by skipper Dinesh Chandimal at square-leg.
Rahul also had himself to blame. None of the Sri Lankan bowlers were able to make an impression on him but a rush of blood saw him try to lift Pushpakumara, only to be caught by Dimuth Karunaratne at mid-on for 85. However, by then Dhawan and Rahul had laid the platform for the Indian innings.
With the openers out of the way, Sri Lankan spinners took over to give the Indian middle order a serious examination. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane not only couldn’t consolidate, they were laborious. India captain Virat Kohli started his innings with an imperious straight drive, but was then made to work hard for the runs.
Post-lunch, the numbers read 29 overs, 101 runs for three wickets.
Having scored successive centuries in the Galle and Colombo Tests, Cheteshwar Pujara was surprisingly tentative during his 45 minutes at the crease. He couldn’t get any rhythm and was hit on the helmet grille off a bouncer. His misery ended when he slashed a delivery from chinaman bowler Sandakan to be caught at slips.
Unable to break the shackles, Ajinkya Rahane played over and across to a Pushpakumara delivery to be bowled and Virat Kohli was caught at slip going for the drive off Sandakan.
MIXED DAY FOR RAHUL
The highlight of the morning was Rahul reaching his seventh successive Test half-century, equaling the world record shared by Chris Rogers, Kumar Sangakkara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Andy Flower and Everton Weekes. Rahul made the most of a reprieve on 28 when Lahiru Kumara failed to judge a miscued hit at mid-on off Dimuth Karunaratne in the 12th over of the match.
But, it was a bittersweet day for Rahul. Any batman would be pleased to score 85, but he would be concerned by his inability to convert it into a century, being his eighth half-century after his 199 against England in Chennai last December.