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The old adage goes that morning shows the day but that is not always the case as was found by the Indian batsmen on the opening day of the third Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Stadium in Kandy on Saturday. Having taken the Lankan bowlers to the cleaners in the first session, the Indian batsmen lost the plot a bit mid-way into the second session and ended the day on 329/6 with Wriddhiman Saha (13) and Hardik Pandya (1) at the crease.
Having won the toss and batted first, Virat Kohli was vindicated as both KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan got stuck into the Lanka bowlers on a wicket which was expected to help the bowlers at least in the first session. But sadly, even though Vishwa Fernando did start well, Lahiru Kumara was all over the place and failed to build the pressure from the other end. In fact, Lahiru was so disappointing that skipper Dinesh Chandimal was forced to bring Dimuth Karunaratne into the bowling attack as early as in the 8th over of the match.
It was all going fine as the duo also managed to register the highest opening stand by any team against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka when they crossed the 171-run mark. The previous record of 171 was held by Navjot Singh Sidhu and Manoj Prabhakar. But just when it looked like both the batsmen were ready to cross the three-figure mark, Rahul threw his wicket away, caught by Karunaratne at mid-on off Pushpakumara’s bowling for 85.
It was now upto R Ashwin and Kohli to stitch a partnership. But once again the Lankans struck when it mattered most and this time it was the all-important wicket of Kohli (42). A beautifully looped ball from Sandakan found the edge of Kohli’s bat as he looked to drive and Karunaratne picked an easy catch to have India in a slight position of bother at 296/5.
But Ashwin and Saha looked that they would take the visitors home without losing any more wickets. But that wasn’t to be as Ashwin’s resistance finally ended in the 88th over as Fernando was finally rewarded for his quality showing right through the day. An outgoing delivery found the edge of the bat as wicket-keeper Dickwella completed a quality catch and Ashwin walked back having made 31. India’s score read 322/6.
Team India: Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (Captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav.
Team Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (Captain),Angelo Mathews, Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Lahiru Thirimanne, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Gamage, Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Lakshan Sandakan.