Kandy: After a breezy start given by Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul, Sri Lankan bowlers fought back strongly and restricted India to 326/6 at Stumps on Day 1 of the third Test at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.
Wicket-keeper 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.
Resuming the final session at 235/3, left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara struck with the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane (17) before chinaman Lakshan Sandakan packed back skipper Virat Kohli (42).
For the hosts, Pushpakumara (3/40) and Sandakan (2/84) were the pick of the bowlers.
Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan smashed a whirlwind century, his sixth, which came in just 107 balls with 15 fours.
Thanks to KL Rahul who kept the momentum going with a high striking rate. He, however, thrown his wicket once again at 84, missing a deserving hundred. He smashed eight fours in his classy knock.
The 188-run partnership between Dhawan and Rahul is India’s highest opening stand versus Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
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 fourth half century of the series in just 45 balls.
Eyeing their maiden whitewash of the hosts, the Indian openers looked unperturbed facing a fresh Lankan bowling attack with chinaman Lakshan Sandakan and seamers Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando in the team, which looked pedestrian throughout the opening session.
The Lankans had themselves to blame for letting a couple of opportunities slip when an edge from Dhawan went through second and third slip and then Lahiru Kumara misjudged a skier from Rahul.
Leading the spin attack in Rangana Herath’s absence, off-spinner Dilruwan Perera failed to impress as Dhawan danced down the track in only his second over to loft him over mid-off and then fetched another boundary with a pull.
The hosts did not use Malinda Pushpakumara’s left-arm orthodox before lunch, but tried Lakshan Sandakan’s left-arm wristspin for a couple of overs. He found a bit of drift early on, but also sent down a full-toss that Dhawan swept to the square-leg boundary.
With India also picking chinaman Kuldeep Yadav in place of the suspended Ravindra Jadeja, this was the first Test match since January 2004 — when West Indies’ Dave Mohammed and South Africa’s Paul Adams featured in Cape Town — to include two specialist chinaman bowlers.