Angelo Mathews was indeed speechless following Sri Lanka's splendid victory over India in series opener © AFP
Angelo Mathews was indeed speechless following Sri Lanka’s splendid victory over India in series opener © AFP

By Kuldip Lal

Galle: Veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath grabbed seven wickets as Sri Lanka stunned India by 63 runs in a thrilling first Test in Galle on Saturday. The tourists, set a victory target of 176 runs, were skittled for 112 in their second innings after lunch on the fourth day to give Sri Lanka the lead in the three-match series. Ajinkya Rahane top-scored with 36, but only three other batsmen reached double figures as India folded up in just 49.5 overs. In a remarkable turnaround, Sri Lanka won after being reduced to 95-5 in their second innings before lunch on the third day, still 98 runs away from avoiding an innings defeat.

Dinesh Chandimal smashed a brilliant 162 off 169 balls, sharing valuable partnerships with Lahiru Thirimanne (44) and Jehan Mubarak (49) to lift the hosts to 367. India’s hopes of celebrating Independence Day in style vanished in a dramatic morning session in which six wickets fell after the tourists started the day at 23-1. The 37-year-old Herath picked up four of those wickets to finish with seven for 48 in 21 overs, his 22nd five-wicket haul in 61 Tests. Young off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal backed his senior partner by taking the other three wickets for 47 runs. Virat Kohli disappointed with poor batting show by India

 

Speechless

Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews said he was “speechless” at clinching victory after his team was down in the dumps on the third morning. “What a turnaround this has been, I am quite speechless. It was a great effort to come back from where we were. Chandimal was outstanding and he single-handedly got us to a fighting score. The wicket was pretty demanding and we knew it won’t be an easy target to chase,” he said.

“Rangana is, of course, a quality bowler and we were really not surprised how well he bowled. He may be 37 but he keeps coming up with such match-winning spells. We are a team in transition, so this win is a real morale-booster. I hope we can continue like this in the remaining two Tests.” Indian captain Virat Kohli refused to make excuses, saying the batsmen were unable to take the pressure of chasing in the fourth innings. “We did not counter what was being thrown at us. We should have been more smart with how we play the spinners,” he said. Virat Kohli praises Rangana Herath for his magical spell

 

Intent lacking

“The need of the hour in the second innings was to take calculated risks, but the intent was lacking. It should be a lesson for all and we need to improve on that. Everyone in the squad is disappointed. We were let down by our batting. There are no excuses. It was a case of us not playing fearless cricket. We were very tentative.” It was only the second time Sri Lanka had defended a target of less than 200. Pakistan, set 168 to win at Galle in 2009, were shot out for 117 with Herath claiming four wickets. Virat Kohli praises Rangana Herath for his magical spell

India made a slow start, adding seven runs in six overs to their overnight score, five of them coming off the bat of nightwatchman Ishant Sharma. Herath, who was brought on to bowl the seventh over, struck with his first delivery by trapping Ishant leg-before for 10 and then bowled Rohit Sharma for four to reduce India to 34-3.

Eleven runs later Kaushal removed Indian captain and star batsman Kohli for three as Kaushal Silva took a low, sharp catch at forward short-leg off a bat-pad edge. First-innings century-maker Shikhar Dhawan plodded for 83 deliveries to make 28 when he fell to a superb return catch by Kaushal, who dived to his left on the follow-through to pluck the ball. India, who went to lunch at 78-7, were bowled out an our after resumption, leaving them with a mountain to climb to save the series when the second Test starts at the P Sara Oval in Colombo on August 20. Virat Kohli praises Rangana Herath for his magical spell