Sri Lankan spinners struck with five wickets even as India rode on opener Shikhar Dhawan’s whirlwind century to reach 329/6 at stumps on the opening day of the third and final Test at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.
Stumper Wriddhiman Saha (13 batting) and all-rounder Hardik Pandya (1 batting) survived the final two overs of the day after Ravichandran Ashwin (31) fell to left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando with the second new ball.
Earlier, after a strong start, India lost 2 back to back wickets in form of Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara. India scored 235/3 at tea on Day 1 of the third Test.
The left-handed opener was striking the ball well bringing his 6th Test century in style, he fell prey to Pushpakumara playing the ball into the hands of Sri Lankan skipper Chandimal. Pujara was the next to follow Dhawan with Mathews pulling off a blinder of a misjudged stroke from the in form Indian.
Earlier in the day Dhawan brought up his third century in a row against Sri Lanka. Three of his six Test hundreds have come against the Lankans, it seems Sri Lanka is the other addition in Dhawan’s favourite countries to score. Meanwhile Malinda Pushpakumara broke the opening partnership of Dhawan and Rahul to give the first breakthrough to the hosts. Rahul departed with a brilliant 85 in his credit.
Cheteshwar Pujara had taken charge on the supporting end with Dhawan going strong. This could have beeen the southpaw’s day to take India to a good total on the opening day of the third Test in Pallekele.
Before Lunch India rode on unbeaten half centuries from openers Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul to post a comfortable 134/0 at lunch on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium here on Friday.
At the break, Dhawan was unbeaten on 64 while Rahul (67 not out) equalled Australian Chris Rogers’ record of registering his seventh consecutive half ton in Tests.
Electing to bat after winning the toss, the visitors were off to a flying start, rushing to their 50 in just 55 balls as Dhawan completed his half century in just 45 balls. Rahul got to his 50 off 67 balls before out-scoring the southpaw.
Brief Scores: India first innings: 235/3 (Virat Kohli 11 not out, Ajinkya Rahane 3 not out) vs Sri Lanka.
India (Playing XI): Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha(w), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Dimuth Karunaratne, Upul Tharanga, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal(c), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Kumara
After claiming the 3 match Test series 2-0, Virat Kohli and men would look to pull off a whitewash on the hosts when they lock horns in Pallekle today. The third and final Test match of the series will feature a few changes in both the sides, with Axar Patel expected to replace Ravindra Jadeja in the Indian setup, Rangna Hearth would miss the match for Sri Lanka and could be replaced by a new face.
The series has been an eye-opener for Lankans, who would want to avoid a complete whitewash. First two matches saw a potent lack of passion and intention in the amateur Sri Lankan side which was easily thumped by a dominating India.
India won the second match by an innings and 53 runs, and would come into the game high on confidence. Captain Kohli is striding the ship well maintaining the hunger to win in each and every of his player.
A win in the previous match meant, Kohli is now the only Indian captain to have won two straight Test series in Sri Lanka. With a number of players in splendid touch, India has turned themselves into a brute Test force. Cheteshwar Pujara led from the front in last two Test matches alongside Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund who are determined in the opening job.
Ajinkya Rahane too joined the party with a brilliant century in the second Test match, providing unmatched strength to the Indian middle order alongside Virat Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha.
We can expect a fight in the final showdown before the two Asian cricketing giants gear up for a 5 ODI series followed by a T-20 International in Colombo.