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Stumps, Day 1: Right then! A very strong day for India in the end. It was their highest score on Day 1 of an away Test. It was their second highest score overall on Day 1 of a Test, and the highest by a visiting team in Sri Lanka. Just goes to show the domination India have had so far.
Shikhar Dhawan roared back into Test form and have made a tremendous effort to reclaim the Test opener's slot. Not surprising, given the rich vein of form he has been lately, with a great run in the Champions Trophy and some strong scores in the ODI series against West Indies too. And then, after he got out, the inimitable Cheteshwar Pujara took over. Virat Kohli was unlucky to have got the faintest of edges to the wicketkeeper, but Pujara and Ajinkya ensured that there was no cause for alarm.
Pujara and Rahane are batsmen of the same mould, both calm, composed, unhurried and both batting technicians and they put the Sri Lankans through the grind. The hosts, however, could have been a bit more proactive with their line and length, bowling changes and field placement though. On many occasions, it looked like the game is drifting away from them, as the Indians were accumulating runs quite freely.
What the Lankans would want desperately now would be wickets on Day 2. Early wickets and that too three-four at least. That's what they need. If they can't do that, there is still a lot left in India's tank to really punish the Lankans. It would be interesting who Hardik Pandya, who is a proven limited-overs dasher bats on his Test debut.
Preview: Going into the first Test of the series on Wednesday, the Virat Kohli-led side will have in their mind their previous tour to the island nation in 2015, when they bounced back from a 0-1 deficit to a 2-1 win and gradually ascend to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
The Galle International Stadium hasn't been a happy hunting ground for the Indians, having managed a single win, way back in 2008 and thereafter losing three on the trot.
Indian captain Virat Kohli (L) and his Sri Lankan counterpart Rangana Herath.
In 2015, India succumbed to a 63-run loss on the penultimate day, thanks to a magical seven-wicket haul by veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who will be leading the side in the first Test in the absence of newly-appointed skipper Dinesh Chandimal, down with pneumonia.
But the young Indian side bounced back well to win the next two matches in Colombo, and claim the series 2-1.
The only factor common between the series then and now is the presence of former India all-rounder Shastri. He was then Team Director then and now is the newly-appointed coach with his own set of support staff, that includes Bharat Arun's return as the bowling coach.
Combining the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, India have lost only one out of 23 Tests (against Australia at Pune) since that defeat in Galle.
Heading in to the game, India's only headache is the loss of opener Lokesh Rahul, who was down with viral fever and ruled out of the first Test.
In such a case, Abhinav Mukund and Shikhar Dhawan are most likely to open the innings unless Kohli and the team management promote Cheteshwar Pujara as the opener.
The middle order looks more or less a settled unit with Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and stumper Wriddhiman Saha, while Rohit Sharma looks set to be back to the playing XI.
The bowling department will have the world class spin twins of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, who will be playing his 50th Test. Besides that, if Kohli decides to go with five bowlers, there is no doubt he will go in with an extra spinner in chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
Kohli has enough options from his pace bowling department, which includes the likes of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, with Hardik Pandya providing him the extra all-round option.
On the other hand, the hosts are in a transitional phase after the retirements of stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
There has also been a change to their support staff after Graham Ford stepped down and was replaced by fielding coach Nic Pothas on an interim basis.
For the Tests against India, the Sri Lankans have former cricketers Chaminda Vaas and Hashan Tillakaratne as bowling and batting coaches respectively.
With Chandimal ruled out of the first game, the onus will be on the young guns to take up the challenge against a formidable Indian team.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.
Sri Lanka: Rangana Herath (Captain), Upul Tharanga, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella (WK), Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vishwa Fernando, Malinda Pushpakumara, Nuwan Pradeep.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 13:38:39 IST