Galle: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s six-wicket haul helped India seize the initiative at stumps on Day One in the first Test match against hosts Sri Lanka at the Galle International Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday.
India posted 128/2 at stumps in reply to hosts Sri Lanka’s 183 in the first innings at stumps. Ashwin was the inspiration behind India’s impressive performance, claiming a six-wicket haul to bowl out the hosts cheaply.
Ashwin (6/46) alongside leg-spinner Amit Mishra (2/21) flummoxed the Sri Lankan batsmen to bowl them out in just 49.4 overs in the second session of the day’s play.
In reply, Shikhar Dhawan (53) and skipper Virat Kohli (45) remained unbeaten to help the visitors reach 128/2 in 34 overs at the end of the day’s play. With his six-wicket haul, Ashwin produced the best bowling by an Indian in Sri Lanka, surpassing Harbhajan Singh’s figures of 6/102 during the 2008 series.
For Sri Lanka, skipper Angelo Mathews (64) was the highest scorer. Opting to bat after winning the toss, Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews hoped to see his team get a good start on a sunny morning, but the Indian bowlers had other plans.
Sri Lanka were in trouble right from the start of their innings, losing their first wicket in the seventh over of the day. Keeping in mind the hard and dry pitch, India skipper Virat Kohli decided to go in with five bowlers (three spinners and two pacers) which worked perfectly for the visitors. Apart from pacers Ishant and Aaron, Ashwin, Harbhajan and Amit Mishra were the three spin options.
Ishant and Aaron struck once each within the first eight overs to push the hosts on to the back foot. While Ishant struck the first blow for India by dismissing Dimuth Karunaratne (9), Aaron scalped the other opener Kaushal Silva (5) with a bouncer.
Ashwin then joined the party, claiming the vital wicket of veteran batsman Kumar Sangakkara (5), who is set to retire after the second Test of the three-match series. The experienced spinner then struck twice in quick succession, removing Lahiru Thirimanne (13) and Jehan Mubarak (0) to send the hosts reeling at 60/5 after 21.3 overs.
Sri Lanka skipper Mathews (64) and Dinesh Chandimal (59) held on to put up a 79-run partnership to take the score close to 140. But Ashwin struck once again to get rid of Mathews. Incoming batsman Dhammika Prasad too surrendered at the hands of Ashwin, to hand the spinner his second five-wicket haul in away Test matches. Sri Lanka were 155/7 in 43.3 overs at that stage.
Mishra, who has made a comeback into the Test side, claimed two wickets in successive deliveries to dismiss batsman Chandimal and Tharindu Kaushal (0), to push the home team on the brink, at 179/9 in 48.2 overs. Ashwin then completed the formalities, claiming his sixth as he clean bowled Rangana Herath (23).
In reply, India got off to a bad start, losing opener Lokesh Rahul (7) in the third over of their innings. No.3 batsman Rohit Sharma (9) too didn’t last long. Two quick wickets within the first 10 overs gave the hosts something to cheer after a poor batting performance.
From there on, Dhawan and skipper Kohli took charge, scoring at a slow pace to take the visitors past the 100-run mark to finish Day One on a promising note. For the hosts, Dhammika Prasad and Angelo Mathews took one wicket each.