India made sure they get an extra rest day by ending the first Test against Sri Lanka on the fourth day itself. They completed a 300-run victory over Sri Lanka and took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series after bowling out Sri Lanka for 249 in the second innings after setting a target to 550 runs on Saturday.
Actually, Sri Lanka lost only eight wickets but were adjudged bowled out as captain Rangana Herath and batsman Asela Gunaratne were not available to bat after suffering from different injuries. Herath was hit on the thumb while fielding on Friday and he did not take field on Saturday. Gunaratne had fractured his thumb while attempting a catch at second slip on day one and since been ruled out of the series.
India’s biggest victory outside home was set up by the total of 600 in the first innings before bowling out Sri Lanka for 291 and taking a 309-run lead. India did not enforce a follow-on but decided to bat again. Abhinav Mukund made 81 and captain Virat Kohli made his 17th Test century to help India set a target of 550 runs. India declared their second innings for 240 for 3.
India got over five hours to bowl out Sri Lanka, a side which was without two batsmen, and it wasn’t difficult for the bowlers once the pacers gave them two early wickets. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared six wickets among themselves to wrap up the middle order and the tail and hand India the win.
The victory was only delayed by Sri Lanka batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella, who scored half-centuries before being dismissed by Ashwin. Their 101-run partnership did make India work hard in the second session but once they were dismissed, nothing provided resistance.
Karunaratne made a brilliant 97, once again showing that he could be relied upon while Dickwella made 67, a mix of risk and calmness. Kohli’s defensive fields did let them settle down later in their partnership which looked to calm the nerves in the Sri Lankan camp.
Both left-handers played through the square region particularly well and made full use to the opening in the field. They had their anxious moments, edging Hardik Pandya twice but somehow survived.
The stand was finally broken when Ashwin picked up his first wicket in the his 20th over. Dickwella tried sweeping Ashwin but got a faint upper edge with Wriddhiman Saha making no mistake behind the wickets. Karunaratne was also dismissed sweeping Ashwin but he got a bottom edge and dragged one back to stumps. He three runs short of what would have been his sixth Test century.
Like most time, once he picked up his first wicket, Ashwin took others quickly. Nuwan Pradeep was caught by Kohli at leg slip before Lahiru Kumara skied the ball and was caught by Mohammed Shami as the off-spinner’s third wicket. That was the eighth and last wicket of Sri Lanka.
The chase was rocked early when Mohammed Shami removed Upul Tharanga after the batsman got an inside edge back on to his stumps. Two balls before this, Shami made the ball to seam away after angling in which Tharanga edged to Kohli at slips but the Indian skipper dropped it. But he once again produced a beauty, this time into the batmsman.
Dhanushka Gunathilaka became the first victim of Umesh Yadav when he played a delivery that shaped into him straight to Cheteshwar Pujara at square-leg. A loose shot from the Sri Lanka batsman, who offered a simple catch.
But, Sri Lanka did not lose any other wicket as Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis survived the remaining over. But, Mendis got one delivery from Jadeja that bounce a bit extra. Playing away from the body, Mendis edged and while the on-field umpire gave him not out, the decision was overturned when India reviewed.
Angelo Mathews made a horrific error. He stepped down the pitch to hit Jadeja over mid-wicket but was beaten in the air and before he could realise, his leading edge was caught at backward point.
While there was no assistance from the Galle pitch, India bowlers did manage to showcase their skill set which was missing from Sri Lanka’s. India resumed the day at 189 for the loss of three wickets with Kohli returning on 74* and he was joined by Ajinkya Rahane. In the one hour they played, both batsmen rotated the strike with ease and took some quick runs.
Kohli made his 17th Test century and 10th as captain off just 136 balls with five fours and a six. He is now only behind Sunil Gavaskar, who has 11 centuries, for most Test centuries for India as captain. Rahane remained unbeaten on 23 as India declared on 240 for the loss of three wickets and a lead of 549.