India began their Tour of Sri Lanka in remarkable fashion with a handsome win of 304 runs in the opening Test at Galle, thus registering only their second Test win at the ground and their first since 2008 when Anil Kumble led the side.
One of the reasons for Sri Lanka’s defeat was the absence of their skipper Dinesh Chandimal due to a bout of pneumonia. Chandimal has played some of his finest Test knocks at Galle and has scored three of his eight Test centuries there.
His finest Test knock of 162 came at this ground against India two years back. It came during the first Test of India’s Tour of Sri Lanka.
Men in Blue were coming into the series at the back of a disappointing Tour of Bangladesh that included a rain-affected drawn Test and a 2-1 ODI series defeat.
Sri-Lanka on the other side were heading into the series at the back of a disappointing outing against Pakistan where they lost the Test series 1-2, the ODI series 2-3, and were beaten in both T20Is.
This would be India’s first meeting against Sri Lanka at Galle since 2010 when the Islanders had defeated them by 10 wickets.
Dhawan, Kohli, and Saha help India take 192-run lead
Sri Lanka won the toss and skipper Angelo Mathews opted to bat first. The hosts were off to a terrible start as they lost openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva within the first 10 overs. Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, and Jehan Mubarak were also sent packing soon and the hosts were struggling at 60/5.
At this point, Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal started to play sensibly and managed to add 79 runs for the 6th wicket. The former, who was playing his 50th Test, got to his fifty and went on to score 64 before being dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Chandimal also reached his half-century and Rangana Herath chipped in with 23 runs as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 183 in their first innings.
Ashwin was the pick of the Indian bowlers with 6/46, his first five-for against Sri Lanka and his 11th in Test Cricket. The Tamil Nadu man’s figures were also the best by an Indian against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
In reply, India lost KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma early but Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli put the Indian innings back on track with both of them scoring centuries, 134 and 103 respectively. Wriddhiman Saha also added 60 as India wrapped up their first innings at 375.
Chandimal gives Sri Lanka hope with 162 in the second innings
Sri Lanka had a disastrous start to their second innings as well. They lost both their openers for zero followed by night watchman Dhammika Prasad’s dismissal for 3 and were tottering at 5/3.
However, Sangakkara and Mathews denied the Indian bowlers any more inroads for some time as they added 87 for the fourth wicket. However, Ashwin broke their partnership by dismissing the former for 40. Soon, Amit Mishra sent the Sri Lankan skipper back to the pavilion and the hosts were struggling at 95/5.
At this stage, it looked like India might register an innings victory. However, Dinesh Chandimal had other plans in his mind. He began to play rather aggressively and smashed boundaries all across the ground.
Chandimal was brilliantly assisted by Lahiru Thirimanne(44) and Jehan Mubarak (49). He added 120 and 82 runs for the 6th and 7th wicket respectively with them. He went on to score his fourth Test century and remained unbeaten on 162 from 169 deliveries as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 367 in their innings, giving India a target of 176 runs to chase to win the match.
Herath steamrolls the Indian batting
Chandimal’s innings saved Sri Lanka from an innings defeat but things were still not looking good for the Islanders as India had the remaining bit of day three and two more days to chase down a meagre target of 175.
However, Rangana Herath was introduced early in the attack and he managed to dismiss KL Rahul before the end of the day and India ended at 23/1 with Shikhar Dhawan and night-watchman Ishant Sharma on the crease.
Herath began day four by dismissing Ishant Sharma following which, the left armer dismissed Rohit Sharma. India later found themselves in all sorts of trouble when Tharindu Kaushal dismissed Virat Kohli thanks to a brilliant diving catch by Kaushal Silva.
India were relying on Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane to stitch up a partnership and a lot of hopes were pinned on the former who had been on the crease for a long time but Kaushal caught him off his own bowling.
The match was gradually getting out of India’s reach as Herath was taking one wicket after another en route his 22nd five-wicket haul in Test match cricket and best Test match figures against India, bettering his 5/121 at Kanpur in 2009.
India’s final hopes of winning the match were dashed when Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed by the veteran spinner for 36. India’s innings ended at 112 with Tharindu Kaushal dismissing Amit Mishra. Sri Lanka won the match by 63 runs and India’s winless streak in Test matches away from home extended to 9 Tests.
Herath did blow away the Indian batting with his 7/48 but had it not been for Dinesh Chandimal’s 162, then Sri Lanka may not have even managed to set up a target of 175 for India.
Hence, Chandimal was adjudged the Man of the Match for his stupendous batting efforts in both the innings.