Galle Test: Dhawan, Kohli help India take control vs SL after Ashwin scalps six
Galle: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin spun a web around Sri Lankan batsmen with a six-wicket haul as India dismissed the hosts for a paltry 183 in the first innings to gain the upperhand on the opening day of the first Test here on Wednesday.
India's premier spinner recorded his best overseas figures of 6 for 46 in 13.4 overs to trigger a collapse that saw the islanders being shot out in just 49.4 overs in their first innings after skipper Angelo Mathews opted to make first use on a track that had turn on offer on the first day itself.
At stumps, India looked in command as they reached 128 for two after opener KL Rahul (7) and Rohit Sharma (9) were dismissed cheaply.
Indian team celebrates the fall of a Sri Lankan wicket on Day 1 of their Test match at Galle on Wednesday. Pic/ AFP
Shikhar Dhawan seemed to continue from where he left off in Bangladesh as he stroked his way to an unbeaten 53 while skipper Virat Kohli looked supremely confident during his undefeated knock of 45.
India are only 55 runs short of Sri Lanka's first innings total and will be looking to build a sizeable lead on a pitch that is offering substancial turn at times.
The first day panned out exactly in the manner that skipper Kohli might have wanted it to be.
Ishant Sharma (1/30 in 11 overs) bowled a good opening spell where he hit the deck hard to extract disconcerting bounce. One such delivery that took off from short of good length saw left-hander Dimuth Karunaratne (9) fend it awkwardly as Ajinkya Rahane took a simple of catch running forward from gully.
Kaushal Silva (5) was a touch unlucky after Shikhar Dhawan earlier dropped a dolly at first slip off Varun Aaron's (1/68 in 11 overs) bowling. But this time was ball that was dug short which Silva wanted to pull but hit his arm guard as Dhawan ran back to dive and take a catch. The replays showed that umpire Nigel Llong got it wrong.
Once Ashwin was brought into the attack in the 12th over, he completely stamped his supremacy on the islanders. Kumar Sangakkara (5) had a forgettable first innings in his penultimate Test match as he tried to push one off-break off the back-foot which saw young Rahul take a sharp catch at silly point.
With Sri Lanka reduced to 27 for three, it became increasingly difficult for them to claw their way back into the game.
Sri Lanka suffered from lack of partnerships as with only skipper Angelo Mathews with a fighting 64 and Dinesh Chandimal (59 runs, 77 balls, 9 fours) being the only batsmen to cross the 25-run mark.
Starting from 65 for five after lunch, Mathews and Chandimal (5 not out) stitched up a 79-run sixth-wicket partnership to stem the rot. The duo though 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.
Ashwin (6-46) then bowled only two overs in the first hour of play, inexplicably, while Harbhajan Singh (0-17) bowled a long spell, with either Ishant or Varun Aaron (1-68) giving him company from the other end.
While the off-spinner kept things tight, he bowled a tad shorter than Ashwin and wasn't able to get as much turn. The batsmen used their feet well against him and weren't in much difficult as compared to facing Ashwin, who made them push and prod with his probing lengths.
Mathews, playing with a ligament tear in his left wrist, then reached his 22nd Test fifty off 77 balls in the 38th over, and also brought up the 50-partnership with Chandimal subsequently. At drinks, they were placed at 118 for five and when play resumed, skipper Virat Kohli brought Ashwin back into the attack.
The partnership was broken in the 42nd over then, with Mathews caught off Ashwin as the ball lobbed off his bat-pad and Rohit Sharma completed a stunning one-handed catch on second attempt at forward short leg.
Dhammika Prasad (0) then lasted only six deliveries and was trapped LBW by Ashwin, as he completed his maiden five-wicket haul in Sri Lanka. He also improved on his previous best outside India, 5-87 against Bangladesh in June.
Amit Mishra (2-20) then came into the attack and struck twice in two balls, in the 49th over. Ashwin then bowled Rangana Herath (23 runs, 24 balls, 4 fours) to complete the rout just before tea.
Sri Lanka 1st innings
Dimuth Karunaratne c Rahane b I Sharma 9
Kaushal Silva c Dhawan b Aaron 5
Lahiru Thirimanne c Rahane b Ashwin 13
Kumar Sangakkar c Rahul b Ashwin 5
Angelo Mathews not out 26
Jehan Mubarak c Rahul b Ashwin 0
Dinesh Chandimal not out 5
Extras (lb 1, nb 1) 2
Total (5 wickets; 23 overs) 65 (2.82 runs per over)
Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-15, 3-27, 4-54, 5-60
Bowling: Ishant Sharma 7-3-7-1, Varun Aaron 7-0-34-1, Ravichandran Ashwin 6-1-15-3, Amit Mishra 3-1-8-0.
India 1st innings:
KL Rahul lbw b Prasad 7
S Dhawan batting 53
R Sharma lbw b Mathews 9
V Kohli batting 45
Extras (lb 6, w 2, nb 6) 14
Total (For 2 wickets in 34 overs) 128
Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-28.
Bowling: D Prasad 7-0-22-1, N Pradeep 8-1-32-0, A Mathews 4-1-12-1, T Kaushal 8-0-41-0, R Herath 7-1-15-0.