Starting as overwhelming underdogs, Sri Lanka would have at least hoped for the toss of the coin going their way at the start of the third and the final Test match between India and Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele on Saturday.
However, the struggling Islanders had little luck as for the third time, Indian skipper Virat Kohli called it right and without an iota of doubt, opted to bat first.
By lunch, Indian openers KL Rahul (67*) and Shikhar Dhawan (64*) had conjured up the best-ever opening wicket stand (134/0) at the ground with Sri Lanka yet again looking nothing less than a club-level side taking on the number one Test side.
Sri Lanka did start well, with pacer Lahiru Kumara hitting Rahul’s pad that had the Sri Lankans interested as early as the second over and his new-ball partner Vishwa Fernando, replacing Nuwan Pradeep, inducing an edge off Shikhar Dhawan that landed in front of the slip cordon.
However, that was all Sri Lanka came close to removing Dhawan in the opening session as the Delhi opener hit eight fours en route to his fourth Test fifty that came at a strike-rate of 115.
Rahul, at the other end, in his usual methodical way got his eye in before taking two boundaries of one Kumara over. The 20-year-old pacer, lost his radar and banged the ball in short and was put away easily. His first spell read 4-1-35-0.
Fernando, just one Test old, fared a tad better, but did not exhibit anything that could have troubled the Indian duo. Dinesh Chandimal, the Sri Lankan captain soon turned to his seam bowling part-timer Dimuth Karunaratne.
His probing cutters kept the batsmen on their toes and he even had Rahul playing a false shot when Rahul went for a loft over midwicket, but Kumara failed to react on time and dropped the chance. Rahul was on 28.
Spinner Dilruwan Perera was pressed in to action, but to no avail as Rahul and Dhawan scored runs at over five runs per over and took India past the 100-run mark inside the first 20 overs. Rahul got to his ninth Test fifty soon after.
More than the lacklustre bowling, Sri Lanka would be wary about the fielding, the intensity of which looked like a tiring final session after three days of play, rather than the opening session of first day’s play.
The Indian openers were given the luxury of easy singles and the they were not at all rushed while converting the available singles in to twos.
Ten minutes before lunch, Chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, Sri Lanka’s third change for this Test, rolled his arms over for eight runs in his two overs – with no sight of their lead spinner Malinda Pushpakumara in the first session. Times of India