DHAWAN, PUJARATONS PUT IN­DIA IN CON­TROL

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Galle, Sri Lanka - Sel­dom have In­dian Test teams gone on tour and en­joyed a first day this dom­i­nant.

Bat­ting first at one of the most bat-first grounds in the world, it cruised along at more than four an over while los­ing only three wick­ets, one in each ses­sion, go­ing to stumps one short of 400 on Wed­nes­day.

Shikhar Dhawan, back at the top of the or­der af­ter miss­ing In­dia's last 11 Tests, scored a cen­tury (190) in a ses­sion for the sec­ond time in his ca­reer, rekin­dling mem­o­ries of his blaz­ing 187 on de­but.

Hav­ing sur­passed that score, he fell three min­utes from tea, fail­ing to clear mid-off when he was ten short of a maiden dou­ble-hun­dred.

Chetesh­war Pu­jara, who walked in to bat in the eighth over of the morn­ing, was still bat­ting at stumps, on a serene 144 that was not only chance­less but al­most with­out blem­ish.

Also un­beaten at stumps was Ajinkya Ra­hane on 39, who added an un­bro­ken 113 with Pu­jara to shut the door on Sri Lanka af­ter two wick­ets ei­ther side of tea had given it the most fleet­ing glim­mer of hope.

One of those wick­ets was of Dhawan. The other was of Vi­rat Kohli, In­dia's cap­tain, who was out to the short ball - top-edg­ing a hook to the keeper.

Nuwan Pradeep, who re­turned from the ham­string in­jury that had kept him out of the Test against Zimbabwe ear­lier this month, was Sri Lanka's only wicket-taker with three for 64.

He was no less patchy with his lines and lengths than the rest of Sri Lanka's at­tack, but he pro­duced two gen­uinely wicket-tak­ing de­liv­er­ies, the bouncer to Kohli and, in the eighth over of the morn­ing, a good-length ball from around the wicket that straight­ened in the cor­ri­dor out­side off stump to have Ab­hi­nav Mukund edge be­hind at 12.

Six overs later, Sri Lanka let Dhawan off when he was on 31. Pitch­ing one up out­side off, Lahiru Ku­mara in­duced Dhawan's only loose drive of the morn­ing ses­sion. Div­ing to his left from sec­ond slip, Asela Gunaratne got both hands to the ball but failed to hold on.

Then he went off the field, hold­ing on gin­gerly to an al­ready heav­ily strapped left hand. It later emerged that the ball had frac­tured Gunaratne's left thumb, and that he was un­likely to play any fur­ther part in the match and the rest of the three-Test se­ries.

In­sult fol­lowed in­jury. Dhawan made no other mis­takes, mov­ing to 64 by lunch. He had only hit eight fours in the first ses­sion, while still cruis­ing at a strike rate in the 70s thanks to a proac­tive pur­suit of quick sin­gles, but ex­ploded there­after, hit­ting 23 fours, all around the dial, in the sec­ond ses­sion.

Be­tween lunch and his dis­missal, Dhawan scored 126 off 90 balls, break­ing Polly Um­ri­gar's In­dia record of 110 in the post-lunch ses­sion, made dur­ing his un­beaten in­nings of 172 in Port-of-Spain in April 1962. Viren­der Se­hwag, who scored 133 in the post-tea ses­sion against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne Sta­dium in 2009, is the only In­dian bats­man to score more runs in a ses­sion.

Sri Lankan skip­per Ran­gana Herath set de­fen­sive fields through­out this on­slaught, but Dhawan kept breach­ing the bound­ary no mat­ter how many field­ers he sent out to pro­tect it.

Dhawan and Pu­jara kept the flame of 2015 burn­ing. Dhawan stepped out 29 times, scor­ing 36 runs in­clud­ing seven fours, and Pu­jara danced down 50 times, scor­ing 39 runs in­clud­ing three fours.

Sri Lanka en­forced a brief lull in In­dia's scor­ing fol­low­ing the wick­ets of Dhawan and Kohli, with Ra­hane tak­ing 40 balls to get into dou­ble fig­ures.

Pu­jara, though, eased what­ever pres­sure it may have cre­ated on his part­ner, skip­ping down the track twice in one over to drive Herath to the ex­tra-cover and straight boundaries, and in the next over lash­ing Ku­mara through the cov­ers, one ball af­ter he had brought up his 12th Test hun­dred.

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