Rahul steadies India innings after Kohli dismissal

Rahul steadies India innings after Kohli dismissal
 Young opening batsman Lokesh Rahul was just two runs shy of his second century as he helped India reach to a comfortable 206 for three at tea on the opening day of the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka here today.

Rahul (98 of 174 balls) put on 164 runs for the third wicket with skipper Virat Kohli (78 of 107 balls; 8x4; 1x6) and steadied India's first innings after two early blows in the morning session at P Sara Oval.

At the tea break, 23-year-old Rahul had put on 30 unbeaten runs for the fourth wicket with Rohit Sharma (17 batting). Rahul had so far hit 12 fours and a six.

Post the lunch break, Kohli and Rahul carried on their 85-run partnership in a bid to build the Indian innings further. The skipper scored his 11th Test fifty off 63 balls immediately after the lunch break and in doing so also brought up the 100-mark for India in the 28th over.

While he had looked fluent until that mark, 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 from Karnataka did not 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, captain Kohli broke the shackles with two consecutive boundaries off Dushmantha Chameera (0/51) 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 Angelo Mathews off the bowling of Rangana Herath (1/54) in the 44th over.

As Kohli walked off dejected, Rohit Sharma walked in and negotiated the 8.3 overs remaining before tea.

Rohit 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.

At the other end, Dhammika Prasad (2/43) made Rahul to wait for his hundred.

Earlier, Prasad struck twice in the morning session as India were left struggling at 12 for two after Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first.

Murali Vijay's (0) return to the playing eleven, after missing the first Test due to a hamstring injury, was short-lived. He was trapped LBW off an inswinger on the fourth ball of the morning.

To everyone's surprise, Ajinkya Rahane (4) then came out to bat at number three in place of Rohit Sharma, who vacated the spot after only three Tests. But the move backfired big time as Rahane edged a Prasad delivery to third slip in the fifth over of the day.

It could have been worse for India had Jehan Mubarak held on to a regulation catch at gully offered by Rahul, then on 11, off Dushmantha Chameera (0/24) in his opening over.
Rahul continued to look scratchy for the remainder of the session as well, but never offered a clear-cut chance again.

At the other end, Kohli was looking solid and played some attractive strokes. He was aggressive against Rangana Herath (0/17), who was introduced into the attack in the 15th over,

Kohli used his feet to perfection against Herath and deposited the left-arm spinner for a six straight down the ground.

The 50-run partnership between Kohli and Rahul came up in the 18th over, while India had crossed the 50-run mark earlier in the 13th over.

Chameera, who surprisingly bowled first change, generated good pace but was unable to make further inroads into the Indian batting.

In the 21st over of the innings, Tharindu Kaushal (0/13) was introduced into the attack, but Kohli and Rahul easily negotiated the passage of play till lunch.

India made three changes in their playing eleven bringing in Murali Vijay, Stuart Binny and Umesh Yadav in place of injured Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh and Varun Aaron.

Sri Lanka made one change to their side with fit-again Dushmantha Chameera coming in for the injured Nuwan Pradeep.

Before the play began, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur felicitated retiring Kumar Sangakkara for a glorious international career. Sangakkara, who is playing his final Test here, then walked onto the field to a guard of honour given by the Sri Lankan players.
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