India's bid to register their first series win in Sri Lanka since 1993 began on a positive note after their bowlers skittled the opposition for 183 runs in the first innings, gaining an upper-hand on the opening day of the first Test at the Galle International stadium on 12 August. Day 1 Highlights
Ravichandran Ashwin spun a web around the Lankan batsmen to register his best overseas figures of 6 for 46 in 13.4 overs which saw the islanders being shot down in just 49.4 overs. Ashwin found adequate support from his teammates with Amit Mishra (2/20), Ishant Sharma (1/30) and Varun Aaron (1/68) adding to Sri Lanka's misery.
After deciding to bat first, the Angelo Mathews-led Sri Lanka witnessed a massive batting collapse that saw them reeling at 65/5 in 23 overs at lunch. Mathews (64) and Dinesh Chandimal (59) stitched a 79-run partnership for the sixth wicket to lead Sri Lanka's fightback.
However, the dismissal of Mathews and Chandimal later in the innings saw the hosts fold for a mediocre total. Only four out of the 11 Lankan players managed to post a score in the double digits while a total of four ducks were also recorded in their forgettable first innings.
After losing K L Rahul and Rohit Sharma early in the innings, Shikhar Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli played sensibly to ensure India didn't lose any more wickets to end Day 1 at 128/2. Dhawan seemed to continue from where he left off in Bangladesh as he stroked his way to an unbeaten 53 while skipper Kohli looked supremely confident during his undefeated knock of 45.
Here are the talking points from Day 1 of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at Galle:
Ashwin spins a web around the Lankans
Ravichandran Ashwin was at his prolific best against the Lankans on a slow and turning Galle wicket. The off-spinner grabbed six wickets while conceding 46 runs in his spell of 13.4 overs to skittle Sri Lanka for a paltry 183-run first innings total. Ashwin also improved on his previous best outside India, 5-87 against Bangladesh in June.
Coming in to bowl in the 12th over, Ashwin immediately made an impact after sending Kumar Sangakkara back in the hut. The Indian spinner went on to dismiss Lahiru Thirimanne and Jehan Mubarak in successive overs that saw Sri Lanka reeling at 65/5 in 23 overs before lunch.
While continuing to push and prod the opposition batsmen with his probing lengths, Ashwin proved why he's India's premier spinner. Ashwin, who bowled only two overs in the first hour of play after lunch, was brought back into the attack by Virat Kohli when the Lankans were breathing easy at 118/5 with Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal looking good.
Ashwin broke the budding partnership between Mathews and Chandimal after removing the Sri Lankan skipper in the 42nd over. Dhammika Prasad became Ashwin's next victim as the Indian spinner registered a five-wicket haul in the first innings. The 28-year-old then put the Lankans out of their misery by picking up the last wicket of Nuwan Pradeep.
Rohit's poor form continues in Tests
After being selected ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara for the No. 3 spot in the Indian batting line-up, Rohit Sharma failed to repay the faith of his captain Virat Kohli and batting coach Sanjay Bangar after a poor knock of nine runs in the first innings against Sri Lanka.
Coming in to bat at 14/1 in the third over, the Mumbai batsman lasted for a mere 24 deliveries after being heavily probed by the opposition bowlers. Sharma scored just one boundary in his forgettable outing and was finally rapped on the pads while trying to defend on the front-foot. Angelo Mathews picked up Sharma's wicket in the 10th over.
The 28-year-old has struggled to score runs in the longer version of the sport. In his last five Tests, Sharma has scored 213 runs including just one fifty. His last Test hundred dates back to 2013 when he smashed an unbeaten 111 against West Indies in Mumbai.
Team India's batting coach had recently said that India needs Rohit Sharma at the No. 3 spot if they intend to score over 300 runs in a one day, but looking at the Mumbai batsman's first innings score, it seems Cheteshwar Pujara would have been a better option for the visitors.
Mathews, Chandimal save Sri Lanka the blushes
After deciding to bat on the dry pitch at Galle, Sri Lanka witnessed a major batting collapse as the Indian bowlers ran amok with impressive figures in the first innings. Only four out of the eleven Lankan players managed to post a score in the double digits while a total of four ducks were also recorded in their forgettable first innings. If it wasn't for their captain Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, the hosts would have been left red-faced with a much lower total.
With their team reeling at 60/5 right before lunch, Mathews led from the front to anchor the troubled Lankan innings alongside Chandimal. The Lankan batsmen stitched a 79-run partnership to steady the hosts who were struggling to negate the Indian spinners.
Mathews, playing with a ligament tear in his left wrist, reached his 22nd Test fifty off 77 balls in the 38th over and went on to score 64 runs before becoming Ravichandran Ashwin's fourth victim of the day. On the other hand, Chandimal gave adequate support to his skipper from the other end, scoring 59 runs off 77 balls including nine boundaries before Amit Mishra ended his resistance.
The duo was helped in this endeavour by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who dropped Chandimal in the second over after resumption of play. In the 25th over, Ishant Sharma (1-30) induced an edge from Chandimal, on 5, and it should have been a regulation catch, but Saha spilled it.
Rahul fails to emulate Murali Vijay's success
Going into the first Test at Galle, Team India was handed a crucial blow after their star-opener Murali Vijay was ruled out of the match after failing to recover from a right hamstring injury. However, Vijay's injury gave a much-needed opportunity to young K L Rahul at the top order.
Having scored a hundred in his last Test and proved his mettle in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka President's XI, Rahul was expected to fill the shoes of Vijay alongside Shikhar Dhawan at the opening slot. But the 23-year-old Karnataka batsman failed to make his presence felt in the first innings for the tourists.
Rahul scored a poor seven runs in an innings that lasted for just seven deliveries. He was dismissed by Dhammika Prasad in the third over after getting rapped on the pads on a good length delivery while trying to push the ball along the ground.
The budding batsman will have to be wary of the seam movement if he intends to make amends in the second innings to keep his spot in the Indian team.