Comprehensive win takes India 1-0 up

The Indian team were back in all whites and they stamped their authority in this format in style as they began their tour of Sri Lanka with a humungous victory in the first Test. The hosts were nowhere in the match, throughout the game and eventually succumbed under pressure, handing India a resounding 304-run win in the first Test in Galle. Sri Lanka will be disappointed with the way their bowlers performed on both the occasions when they batted. Their batting let them down as well! With the exception of a few stand-out innings, most of their batsmen failed to bat with application and dwindled against the Indian bowlers.

On Day 1 of the Test, India won the toss and Virat Kohli didn’t hesitate to bat first on a wicket which looked placid. The skipper handed Hardik Pandya his Test debut, thus becoming the 289th player to represent India in the format. They also recalled Shikhar Dhawan for this Test, as KL Rahul was missing out and he had a new partner in Abhinav Mukund who was recalled for this series after a prolific domestic season. The hosts sent Mukund back to the dressing room for just 12, as Nuwan Pradeep gave them the early breakthrough. Shikhar Dhawan had other plans though! The southpaw started oozing with confidence, as he got set and went on to score a stylish century. He just didn’t stop and along with Cheteshwar Pujara, he added a 253-run stand. Dhawan went ballistic and smashed 126 runs in the afternoon session. It was also the second highest by an Indian in a single session, after Sehwag. He eventually got out for 190, having missed a deserving double century. There was also an early setback for Sri Lanka. Asela Gunaratne injured himself while taking a catch and missed the remaining part of the Test match.

Cheteshwar Pujara from the other end was calm and composed. The reliable batsman stitched a calculative innings and took India to a big total. Pradeep was the only Lankan bowler to make the ball do the talking having removed the top four Indian batsmen. The lower middle order piled on more runs. Ashwin and Rahane shared a solid partnership whereas Hardik Pandya, who came in at number 8 on his debut smashed a fifty. The all-rounder’s knock included three sixes and five fours. Nuwan Pradeep continued to impress as the pacer took a 6-fer. India’s lower order however, made sure that the team posted a whopping 600 on the board in the first innings.

With runs on the board, the bowlers had the liberty to go all out against the hosts. They didn’t disappoint either, as Umesh Yadav struck early and removed Dimuth Karunaratne for a single-digit score. Gunathilaka couldn’t impress either and Mohammed Shami sent him back to the pavilion. Kusal Mendis was soon gone for a duck, giving Shami and India two quick wickets. Angelo Mathews and Upul Tharanga, the two senior players showed some responsibility and added valuable runs for the team, but a run out brought an end to Tharanga’s knock. Ashwin got among the wickets column when he removed Dickwella and later on, Angelo Mathews departed on 83. Dilruwan Perera continued to fight though, bot giving up and stayed unbeaten on 92 as his team folded for 291, giving a healthy lead of 309 runs to India. Jadeja was the top wicket-taker for India with his 3-fer. On Days 1 and 2, it was all India and they kept applying pressure on the Lankans.

India came out to bat again and didn’t enforce the follow-on! Shikhar Dhawan got out early this time around, giving away his wicket to Perera, but Abhinav Mukund made most of his second opportunity I this Test. The opener batted with a lot of grit and partnered well with his captain. Mukund’s knock ended though, in the last over of the day, being dismissed for 81 runs. Virat Kohli was back to his usual business though, and played attacking shots on his way to his 17th Test century. The Indian skipper had a dull series against Australia, but he was back to his best and smashed an unbeaten 103, thus giving a stiff target of 550 runs to the hosts.

The Lankans had a mountain to climb and the Indian bowlers had around two days to win the Test match. The hosts may have chased down the record total in Asia recently, but that was against Zimbabwe and this time they were up against a confident Indian side. Upul Tharanga felt the pressure early on as the opener got out in the third over of the innings. His catch was put down a few balls earlier by Virat Kohli, but Mohammed Shami did it all by himself when Tharanga dragged one back on to his stumps. Gunathilaka, the number 3, who was making his Test debut failed to spend time in the middle flicking one straight to Pujara at mid-wicket off Umesh Yadav. Kusal Mendis got a start and added a valuable stand with Karunaratne, but Ravindra Jadeja broke the partnership. Mendis was caught behind off Ashwin, but the umpire gave it not out. The Indian team were confident and took a review which eventually went in their favour. Having played a handy knock in the first innings, the experienced Angelo Mathews followed and was burdened with the job of playing a responsible knock. A sudden rush of blood saw him play a rash shot which cost him his wicket.

The partnership of the innings came between Karunaratne and Dickwella. The duo frustrated the Indian bowlers and added 101 runs showing a lot of grit. It didn’t prove enough as they were facing an improbable target. The partnership was broken by Ravichandran Ashwin when Dickwella tried to sweep but only managed to edge it to the keeper behind. Replays confirmed there was a slight deflection in the Real Time Snickometer. Dimuth Karunaratne battled hard and the opener was out of form and he showed great temperament under tough conditions. Unfortunately he missed out his ton as he fell three runs short of the three-digit mark.

Ashwin then removed Nuwan Pradeep in no time and India were inching towards victory. Jadeja wrapped things up when he got the wicket of Kumara and Sri Lanka were eight down. Since Gunaratne was already out of the Test and was not going to bat and Herath also injured himself yesterday, the two batsmen couldn’t come out to bat. That snaffled a comprehensive victory for the visitors who won the game by 304 runs, the biggest defeat for Sri Lanka in Tests by runs.

India sent a strong message this time in the tour ahead. Sri Lanka have had their share of troubles in cricket in the recent past with wins becoming hard to come by, and facing a strong Indian team may not make their lives any easier. The Lankan bowlers and batsmen will have to step up a few notches to make a comeback in the second Test. Team India will be high on confidence after this victory and will look for nothing less than their second consecutive win on the tour. The second Test match begins on Thursday, 3rd August. Sri Lanka have 4 days to come up with a new strategy and respond to this massive loss.

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