The third Test between India and Sri Lanka in Pallekele is underway, with the former winning the toss, electing to bat and finishing the day on a score of 329 for the loss of six wickets. For the first time in the series, however, the Indians will go into the second day with a hint of caution, thanks to the fightback from the hosts in the second and third sessions of the opening day.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli completed a hat-trick of toss victories after calling out correctly on the morning of Day 1, describing his decision to bat first as a "no-brainer". Both sides went in with altered teams — while Kuldeep Yadav replaced the suspended Ravindra Jadeja, the Sri Lankans named three changes to their side, two of which were injury-forced. Both Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul earned reprieves in the first session, and they went on to make the most of those wasted chances by putting up a solid first-wicket stand worth 188.
Just when it seemed as if it would turn out to be another one-sided day in favour of the visitors, with Dhawan bringing up his sixth Test century, the Sri Lankan spinners turned things around. It started with Rahul getting caught at mid-on by Dimuth Karunaratne while attempting a slog down the ground. Dhawan departed not long after, sweeping straight into the hands of Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal. Wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals thereafter. The one-Test-old Malinda Pushpakumara finished the day with figures of 3/40, with the two spinners sharing five out of the six wickets that fell on the opening day.
The Indians however, still have some batting left in their ranks. Wriddhiman Saha and Hardik Pandya are at the crease at the moment, with both getting a half-century each so far in the series. They need a big partnership on the second day to get the visitors as close to the 500-run mark as possible. Saha and Pandya decided to stay defensive in the closing overs of the opening day, and could opt for a similar approach in the initial overs, before the latter eventually runs out of patience and opts to score runs the way he usually does. Not to mention, Kuldeep has a decent First-Class average of 28 for a tailender, and could take over the responsibility of adding valuable runs down the order as Jadeja used to do.
The possibility of getting yet another 600-plus total — for the third consecutive Test — looks bleak for the Indians right now. But the score in the range of 450-500 will be an imposing one nevertheless. Especially since the spinners were getting a decent amount of turn on the opening day itself.