Rahul ton keeps India afloat

Skipper Kohli, Rohit hit fifties before Lanka strike to share day's honours

Rahul ton keeps India afloat

KL Rahul scored a patient century as India overcame some early jitters to share the honours against a fighting Sri Lanka on the opening day of the second Test here on Thursday.

After seeing his opening partner Murali Vijay depart for nought as early as in the fourth ball of the innings and one-down batsman Ajinkya Rahane for just a four in the fifth over, the 23-year-old Bengalurean staged a fine recovery act with skipper Virat Kohli (78 runs, 107b, 8x4, 1x6) before going on to score a pugnacious 108 (190b, 13x4, 1x6) here at the P Sara Oval.

Rohit Sharma then put aside a string of poor scores and made the best use of coming down the order by stroking a classy 79 but his dismissal in the last over of the day — 87.2 — meant Sri Lanka ended the day on a somewhat happier note as India reached 319/6.

After winning the toss, skipper Kolhi had no hesitation in electing to bat but the decision seemed to backfire when Vijay returned to the dressing room for a fourth ball duck. Dhammika Prasad, making the best use of the early juice in the wicket by bowling a probing line, got one to swing in. Vijay failed to get his bat on time and umpire Rod Tucker had no hesitation in raising his finger.

Rahane, promoted from his usual three down position, then followed Vijay soon, thanks to a rash shot. Trying to drive at a full-length wide delivery off Prasad, he only ended up edging it to Karunaratne who lapped it up gleefully as India seemed in a spot of bother at 11/2. It could have then easily been 25/3 but Mubarak dropped Rahul off Dushmantha Chameera in the pacer’s very first over, grassing a sitter at gully.

Solid and focussed until that lapse in concentration, Rahul then made the best use of the life he was given. He tightened his defences, cut out the flair and in the company of Kohli went about steadying the ship over by over. Both Rahul and Kohli saw off the opening hour where Prasad troubled them with pace, bounce and swing.

Kohli then took it upon himself to force the pace, displaying great footwork, especially against left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. The 26-year-old hardly allowed the veteran to settle down, stepping outside early in the first over itself and with Chameera too spraying the ball all over the place, runs started to come at a fair clip for the Indians who took lunch at 97/2 in 26 overs.

Looking confident and with the pitch too flattening on a sweltering day, both Rahul and Kohli then started to unleash their strokes after lunch. While Kohli displayed his trademark drives and flicks, Rahul was strong in the midwicket region, pulling and driving straight down nonchalantly.

Just when the partnership seemed like taking India to a dominant position, Kohli fell against the run of play to a brilliant catch by Mathews at slip that brought an end to a fine 164-run partnership.

Rahul, however, went on to get his second hundred from just his fourth match, scrambling for a two. But he undid all his good work soon after when his pull shot resulted in his demise. Trying to attack Chameera’s short ball wide of off stump, he only ended up skying it to wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.

Rohit, under the gun following a string of poor scores, however made sure the Lankans didn't close down on the Indians.

Slow to start off, he kept gaining confidence as the innings wore on. Just like Rahul and Kohli, he read the spinners well, showing no hesitation in stepping down when the ball was thrown up.

The pull shots too flowed then as he laid siege to the pacers as well and with Saha too looking comfortable at the other end, it seemed like India were on course to wrapping up a hard-fought day with the balance in their favour.

That was not to be as Mathews got one to swing back in to trap Rohit leg before wicket, making sure the punches were shared.

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