Ravichandran Ashwin emerged as the top performer on Day 1 of the opening Test between India and Sri Lanka, claiming a fifer to leave the hosts reeling on Wednesday. India went into the match playing three spinners on a Galle track that offered bounce and turn. Ashwin though outshone Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra to emerge as India’s lead strike bowler. (Scorecard | Report)
Asked to field first, India made a strong start when Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron removed the Sri Lankan openers by the eight over of the innings. In walked Ashwin and Sri Lanka’s woes deepened even more dramatically.
In what is his penultimate Test match, Kumar Sangakkara received a rapturous welcome but left eerie silence in his wake when he became Ashwin’s first victim of the day. The left-hander, the leading run-scorer in Tests among those still playing, faced just 12 deliveries when he fell in the first over after the drinks break for five. He punched the third ball from Ashwin straight to silly-point fielder Lokesh Rahul, who gleefully held on to the sharp chance.
Lahiru Thirimanne (13) slapped two boundaries but Ashwin ensured the early signs of battle was brought to an end. The batsman was caught in the slips by Ajinkya Rahane – Sri Lanka tottering at 54-4. Ashwin gained another wicket before lunch when he deceived Jehan Mubarak (0) in the air and the batsman gave Rahul an easy catch at forward short-leg.
The post-lunch session saw admirable fight from captain Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. Virat Kohli though persisted with Ashwin and he did not disappoint. After completing his 22nd Test fifty, Mathews suffered a lapse in concentration and was caught brilliantly by Rohit Sharma at short leg to leave Ashwin celebrating once again.
Ashwin then went onto complete his 11th five-wicket haul in Test cricket when he trapped Dhammika Prasad (0) LBW. It was an unforgiving spell from the wile Indian bowler – one which ensured that Sri Lanka were left in shambles at 155/7 in just two sessions. While Mishra managed to ‘steal’ two wickets towards the end, Ashwin claimed the final wicket – that of Rangana Herath – to finish with six wickets from the innings.
India have not won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993 but it looks like Ashwin’s effort on Wednesday is a sign of bigger and better things to come.
First Test on Lankan soil and he starts off with a six-wicket haul…well bowled @ashwinravi99#TeamIndia#SLvsIndpic.twitter.com/IIxAb7Yxtn
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 12, 2015