Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara help India dominate Sri Lanka in Galle Test
Indian cricket team rode on Shikhar Dhawan’s fiery 190 and Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten 144 to finish Day 1 of the first Test against Sri Lanka at 399/3.india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 26, 2017 18:20 IST
Shikhar Dhawan produced a dazzling exhibition of strokeplay to celebrate his return to Test cricket with a glorious 190 on the opening day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday. (India vs Sri Lanka Day 1 Highlights)
On the way to his career-best knock, Dhawan completed a hundred in a session for the second time, the knock rekindling memories of his blazing 187 on debut against Australia in 2013. He faced 168 balls and hit 31 fours. (India vs Sri Lanka Day 1 Scorecard)
Dhawan found a solid partner in Cheteshwar Pujara (144 batting, 246 balls, 12 fours). The two shared a 253-run partnership for the second wicket as India completely dominated the opening skirmish of the three-Test series, finishing the day on a whopping 399 for three wickets.
The two have fond memories of their previous tour to this island nation. Dhawan’s last century in Test cricket had also come at this picturesque venue, in 2015, and Pujara had turned around his career with anbeaten 145 in the final Test win in that series.
Pujara continued to build on Dhawan’s heroics by adding 113 runs with Ajinkya Rahane (39 batting) for the fourth wicket after skipper Virat Kohli was out for three runs.
Out of the Indian team since October 2016, the stars seemed to realign favourably for Dhawan. After missing 11 Tests, he made the squad as a last minute replacement when Murali Vijay pulled up injured, and only got the opportunity to play because the other regular opener, KL Rahul, reported ill on the eve of the game.
The left-handed opener pounced on the opportunity, lighting up the scenic stadium by scoring 126 off 90 balls between lunch and his dismissal. In all, he smashed 31 fours at a strike rate of 113.09 as he bettered his highest score.
It was a bad toss to lose for the hosts. The surface was beautiful to bat on and Sri Lanka’s inexperienced attack lacked imagination and quality to test the batsmen. What hurt them most was their main weapon, skipper Rangana Herath, who has taken 93 wickets in 16 Tests at this ground, went wicketless.
Pacer Nuwan Pradeep was the lone bright spot, claiming all the three wickets. However, he seemed fortunate with the second of his dismissals as third umpire Rod Tucker gave Virat Kohli out despite Ultraedge being inconclusive about the edge. Sri Lanka had asked for DRS when umpire Bruce Oxenford turned down the appeal for caught behind after Kohli attempted a hook shot.
Against top teams, matches change on one ball. Sri Lanka will rue the chance they had in the 14thover. It resulted in a double blow from which Sri Lanka will find it difficult to recover. Batting on 31, Dhawan edged a drive off rookie pacer Lahiru Kumara to second slip where a diving Asela Gunaratne got his hand to the ball, only to be hit on the edge of the thumb. The catch was spilled and Gunaratne suffered a fracture. Dhawan went from strength to strength while news came that Gunaratne was ruled out of the game.
On other times, the medium pace bowling of Gunaratne may not be required, but in a situation where nothing was working for them, Herath needed all options at his disposal. Gunaratne’s batting ability will also be missed as the hosts stare at the opposition posting a big total.
However, the kind of touch and mood Dhawan was in, it’s doubtful whether even the best of attacks would have contained him. He started briskly and went berserk after the lunch break. In a clear game plan to take out the main threat, Dhawan targetted Herath, not allowing him to settle down. He used the sweep shot effectively and killed any turn by using his feet when the legendary left-arm spinner gave the ball air.
Earlier, India all-rounder Hardik Pandya was given his Test debut.