In a day of two halves, India dominated the first but gave away the momentum to Sri Lanka by close of play after losing six wickets before stumps on day one of the third and final Test at Pallekele in Kandy. An 188-run opening stand between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul laid a solid platform for India but Sri Lanka bounced back through their spinners and halted India’s progress. At stumps, India were 331 for 6 with Wriddhiman Saha and Hardik Pandya the two unbeaten batsmen.
Dhawan and Rahul scored runs at six runs per over in the first four of the day before managing to take India to 134 for no loss at Lunch in just 26 overs. But midway through the second session, India began to lose momentum as both openers fell trying to play aggressive strokes. Cheteshwar Pujara became the first victim of Lakshan Sandakan.
India went to Tea at 235 for 3 and in the final session Sri Lanka picked up two wickets — one each for Vishwa Fernando and Sandakan — as India moved past 300. They scored at 3.64 runs per over in the day but that fell below three in the final session.
Dhawan scored his sixth Test century and Rahul was looking good to score his but both batsmen were dismissed by Pushpakuamara. Rahul, batting on 85, his record equaling seventh half-century, came down the track and tried to loft it over mid-on. But, his bat spun in his hands and it went straight to mid-on.
His partner, exceptional throughout the day, played a sweep shot off a full toss and Dinesh Chandimal was in perfect field position to take a sharp catch at square-leg. Pushpakumara had given Sri Lanka two wickets and both of set batsmen.
The hosts had bowled wayward line and lengths during the first session but suddenly bowled with purpose and sharpness. Pushpakumara got it up to the batsmen while Sandakan confused the batsmen with his variations off his wrist. Fernando wasn’t far behind with his seam.
Sandakan bowled a wrong’un to Pujara who failed to read it and went for a lazy cut short only to be caught at slips. Kohli was caught at the same position but he played a loose cover drive. He fell to Pushpakumara after making 42.
Ajinkya Rahane, who had given some stability to Indian innings, was undone by a dipping, drifting delivery from Sandakan. Rahane tried to flick it from the frontfoot but missed it completely and it went through the gate to bowl him.
R Ashwin and Saha were set to take India to close of play but Fernando got the second new ball to swing away and Ashwin edged it behind. Niroshan Dickwella dived to his right and parallel to the ground held on to the catch.
Pandya survived the remaining two overs with Saha as India took to take their total close to 400 when they come out to bat on second day.