The much-hyped decision by Virat Kohli, to promote Rohit Sharma up to number three, did not prove fruitful. But, a fantastic bowling effort by Ravichandran Ashwin backed up by good batting from Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli, gave India a significant advantage over the hosts at the end of the first day's play. Right from the time he was introduced into the attack, the off-spinner was in his elements. His splendid exhibition kept Sri Lanka down to a paltry total of 183, after Angelo Mathews decided to bat first. By the end of the day's play, India had brought the deficit down to 55, with Dhawan unbeaten on 53 and Kohli on 45.
On a track that was offering appreciable turn on day one itself, Ashwin proved to be extremely deadly as he ran through the Sri Lankan innings, aided by the fact that he was bowling to a plethora of left-handers. Ashwin's dismissal included that of outgoing veteran Kumar Sangakkara, who was slightly unlucky. He played a defensive shot which headed to KL Rahul at silly point, who stayed low, and smartly plucked the catch. Having already lost the openers cheaply, this was a massive blow for Sri Lanka. Lahiru Thirimanne also struggled against Ashwin, and edged one that was going away from him, without conviction.
The troubles continued for Sri Lanka as Jehan Mubarak, looking to resurrect his international career, gave a simple bat pad catch. His dismissal for a duck, left Sri Lanka reeling at 60 for 5, and they headed to lunch, having added only five more runs to the score. Earlier, the Indian pacers also chipped in to make life miserable for the Lankan openers early on. Dimuth Karunaratne was sent back as he unsuccessfully tried to fend a bouncer off Ishant Sharma. The other opener Kaushal Silva was unlucky as he was given out caught off the arm guard by Shikhar Dhawan off Varun Aaron's bowling. It seemed as if luck had run out for Silva as earlier he was dropped by the same fielder off the same bowler.
India were very much in command having sent back half of Lanka's side. But, skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal resurrected the innings to some extent. The Lankan skipper batted very smartly, using limited aggression, and targeting balls to try and open up the field. While Chandimal was lucky early on, as Wriddhiman Saha dropped a sitter off Ishant, Mathews was much more in control of his innings. The pressure eased a bit on the Lankans as Harbhajan Singh could not maintain the stranglehold created by Ashwin. The Lankans seemed to be recovering to a decent position when Kohli decided it was time to bring Ashwin back from the wicket-taking end.
Kohli's move paid immediate dividends as Mathews' hard-fought half-century came to an end. It needed a special catch from Rohit Sharma though at forward short leg. An aerial shot looked set to go above his head. Rohit managed to rise and get a hand to it. The ball deflected back in the direction of the stumps, but somehow Rohit, who was going the other way, managed to overturn his momentum and hold on to the the ball. The effort was in stark contrast to the sitters dropped by Dhawan and Saha. The lower order succumbed quickly after Mathews was sent back as Ashwin ran through the tail, with help from Amit Mishra.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent