AHMEDA BAD: Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit centuries as India brushed aside a stunning start by Sri Lanka’s new-look pace attack in the first Test here on Monday.
Left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara grabbed three wickets in his first four overs and Dammika Prasad took one to reduce India to 32-4 within the first hour of play. Dravid smashed an unbeaten 177, his 27th Test century, and Dhoni made 110 as India turned the tables on the hapless tourists to reach 385-6 by stumps in an enthralling start to the three-Test series.
Dravid, nicknamed ‘The Wall’ for his solid batting, hit 26 boundaries and a six in an unusually aggressive innings that saw him complete 11,000 Test runs with his final single of the day. When he had reached 105, Dravid surpassed retired former
Australian captain Steve Waugh’s tally of 10,927 runs to become the fifth highest Test scorer behind Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Allan Border.
Skipper Dhoni played the supporting role during a sixth-wicket stand of 224 after
left-hander Yuvraj Singh (68) had begun the rescue act by adding 125 for the fifth wicket with Dravid. Dhoni fell to the second new ball shortly before close, caught behind off Prasad, leaving Harbhajan Singh to keep Dravid company at stumps on two.
Welegedara, playing only his second Test, gave away just 28 runs in his opening spell of seven overs, but finished the day at an expensive 3-75 in 17 overs.
Some 10,000 home fans at the Motera stadium, who had hoped to see Tendulkar celebrate his third decade in Test cricket with a bang, were stunned to see wickets fall in a heap at the start. Tendulkar, the world’s leading Test and one-day batsman, smashed the first ball he faced to the cover fence, but fell two deliveries later when he was bowled by a jubilant Welegedara.
Welegedara and Prasad, who had just four Test appearances between them, justified their selection ahead of the more experienced duo of Nuwan Kulasekera and Thilan Thushara.
Few expected the havoc to follow after Dhoni won the toss and promptly elected to bat on a hard, brown wicket that appeared full of runs.
Welegedara, working up a tidy pace, bowled Gautam Gambhir in his second over and trapped Virender Sehwag leg-before in his fourth to reduce India to 27-2.
Tendulkar followed Sehwag in the same over, before Prasad uprooted Venkatsai Laxman’s off-stump six balls later to increase India’s woes. Dravid and Yuvraj lifted the total to 105 by lunch and then took the attack to the Sri Lankans in a spectacular counter-attack when play resumed.
Dravid hit three boundaries in one over from Welegedara and Yuvraj reached his half-century with two consecutive fours off Angelo Mathews. Yuvraj was dismissed
mid-way through the afternoon session when he played early to Muttiah Muralitharan and the top edge spooned for an easy catch to Tillakaratne Dilshan in the covers.