Opener Shikhar Dhawan gestures to the dressing room after his hundred on Day One of the third India-Sri Lanka Test at Pallekele in Kandy on Saturday. Pic/AFP
They used to call him Gabbar, and Shikhar Dhawan was more than happy to play long, whether twirling his moustache elaborately or slapping his thigh wrestler style when celebrating milestones. In Kandy, when Dhawan reached his hundred on Day One of the third Test, the celebration was a different one: both hands making the V sign, held aloft above his head.
"It was a fun thing with the boys. That's it. We made a sign. Nothing to do with the second century or anything. They gave me a new name and I was just celebrating that, that's it," said Dhawan, while stopping short of actually shedding light on the matter. "I can't disclose the name, not everything my friend."
On a day when India's batsmen found ways to get out despite the pitch playing well and the bowling not being anything special, Dhawan had a ready answer. "Agar raja jaise khelte ho to raja raise out ho jao, soldier jaise nahin," he had said in jest to KL Rahul in the dressing-room. "If you have made runs aggressively, then you will get out that way too. That's how it is."
After the rain leading up to the Test, Saturday dawned bright and sunny and Virat Kohli had little hesitation in choosing to bat. The first session might have been a tricky one, but Sri Lanka's inexperienced new-ball bowlers, Vishwa Fernando and Lahiru Kumara, wasted the new ball. Both were guilty of either not making the openers play enough or providing width off short balls that could be safely struck for boundaries.
India blasted along at more than four runs an over, reaching 188, the highest opening partnership in a Test in Sri Lanka, before Rahul's attempt to clear mid-off cut short his innings on 85. It was Rahul's seventh consecutive half-century, and soon the inability to convert these fifties into hundreds is going to play on his mind.
For once, bowling on top
Dhawan, who looked completely at ease at the crease, slapped an innocuous delivery from Malinda Pushpakumara straight to square-leg, ending on 119 from only 123 balls. Cheteshwar Pujara was never comfortable against Lakshan Sandakan, the chinaman bowler, and it wasn't long before he picked the wrong ball to cut and edged to slip.
Ajinkya Rahane was tortured by Sandakan, the batsman being unable to decipher which way the ball would turn. Although he played and missed repeatedly and had several close shaves against the chinaman bowler, it was the orthodox left-armer who dismissed Rahane, playing for the turn and being bowled.
Virat Kohli (42) threatened, but was undone by Sandakan, a tossed up delivery inducing the outside edge. R Ashwin became Sri Lanka's sixth scalp of the day, and with 329 on the board, the match progressed at pace on the first day.
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