Rahul ton guides India to safety after early jitters
Opener Lokesh Rahul struck a fluent century as India recovered from early jitters to reach 319 for six in their first innings to leave the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka evenly poised here on Thursday.
Opting to bat, the visitors lost opener Murali Vijay (0) and Ajinkya Rahane (4), <g data-gr-id="51">surprsingly</g> promoted to number three, with only 12 runs on the board before young Rahul (108) and skipper Virat Kohli (78) resurrected the innings with an attractive 164 run third wicket partnership.
Rohit Sharma also chipped in with a <g data-gr-id="45">strokeful</g> 79 but was dismissed at the fag end of an engrossing opening day’s play which saw both the teams sharing the honours.
This was Rahul’s second Test hundred as he faced 190 balls hitting 13 boundaries and a six in the process. Kohli, who looked good for another Test ton scored 78 off 107 balls with eight boundaries and a six.
The Indian captain was unlucky to miss out on his 12th Test hundred after rival skipper Angelo Mathews took a smart diving catch off Rangana Herath’s bowling. Under-fire Rohit Sharma, however, justified the immense faith shown in him by the team management as he somewhat redeemed himself with a stylish knock after his twin failures in the 63-run defeat at Galle.
Indian team management’s decision to try Stuart Binny (10) as an all-rounder did not work in this Test match as the Karnataka player looked totally out of sorts during his 40-ball innings before playing a terrible shot which brought about his downfall. At stumps, Wriddhiman Saha was unbeaten on 19 as play was called off immediately after Sharma’s dismissal.
It was Indian captain Kohli, who won the toss and decided to bat on a hard strip that had some bounce and carry.
Vijay, who missed the last Test due to <g data-gr-id="49">hamstring</g> injury, had a forgettable comeback as Dhamika Prasad trapped him leg-before with a delivery that came in a shade after pitching in line with the stumps.
In order to shield Rohit from the new ball, the dependable Rahane was sent at the crucial number 3 position and he started with a boundary.
However, Prasad got him with an outswinger that he tried to drive on the up and was caught in the slips by Dimuth Karunaratne. It was then that skipper Kohli joined Rahul and the duo started the repair work cautiously but were positive in their strokeplay. Rahul got a reprieve when he was on 11 and made the most of it.
India went into lunch at 97 for two as Kohli-Rahul duo had added 85 runs by then. Post lunch break, the pair carried on their partnership in a bid to build the Indian innings further. The skipper scored his 11th Test fifty off 63 balls immediately after the break and in doing so also brought up the 100-mark for India in the 28th over. While he had looked fluent until the landmark, he suddenly looked very edgy for a brief period of play thereafter.
Kohli scored only two runs in 32 minutes during this passage of play, and it was left to Rahul to keep the scorecard ticking. The youngster didn’t disappoint and reached his first Test fifty off 94 balls.
Their 100-run partnership had earlier come in the 29th over.
At the other end, the captain broke the shackles with two consecutive boundaries off Chameera and was looking good for more. But just then, against the run of play, he fell to a stupendous, one-handed, diving catch to the right by Mathews off the bowling of Herath in the 44th over. As he walked off dejected, Rohit walked in and negotiated the 8.3 overs remaining before tea. He started off nervously, pushing and prodding the ball, but hit a six and a four off Herath in the penultimate over before tea to ease at the break.