Sangakkara and Paranavitana punish India
Sri Lanka 256 for 2 (Paranavitana 110*, Sangakkara 103) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The Test is only a day old but already it appears as though it's Sri Lanka's game to lose. As expected, the lambs were led to slaughter. The Indian bowling attack defined mediocrity and Sri Lanka bossed it around in style to reach a strong position by the end of the opening day in Galle. Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga Paranavitana sealed well-compiled tons as the hosts galloped towards gaining complete control before rains brought an early end to the day's play.
No Test hundred is easy. Especially if it's scored against a team ranked No. 1 in the world. However, this was one of the easier hundreds Sangakkara has scored against a top-ranked team. A maiden hundred, though, is never easy irrespective of the opposition and Paranavitana played splendidly to get to his. His celebration was befitting of the landmark: He screamed in delight, pumped his fists, jumped in joy, and ran almost all the way to the boundary.
What stood out was the ease with which Paranavitana and Sangakkara progressed. It appeared as though they were having a net session. India's weak bowling attack was further handicapped by Harbhajan Singh's ailment. He hobbled away during the second session and, though he returned to bowl later, was still suffering from the after effects of the injury and illness that threatened his presence in the team. He hardly looked his best and once again disappeared into the pavilion in the final session.
Without Harbhajan in his element, India's attack lacked bite, inspiration and skill, which was reflected in the lines bowled. Pragyan Ojha pinged the middle-and-leg line with a backward short leg and short leg in place. Often, he slipped the ball outside leg. While Paranavitana swept and worked him behind square leg, Sangakkara backed away to cut from middle stump. Never did it seem that he was taking any undue risk.
Harbhajan bowled farther outside off and hardly got the two left-hand batsmen to drive. He had a short cover and a short extra cover in place but the length and line was never right for the drive. The part-timer Virender Sehwag eventually produced mistakes from the batsmen. Sangakkara, on 65, edged a square drive but MS Dhoni couldn't catch a straightforward chance and Paranavitana edged an attempted cut but Yuvraj Singh couldn't reach it despite a dive at backward point.
For the main part, the batsmen sparkled with pretty stroke play. Sangakkara's best shot was an on-the-up punch to the straight boundary off Ishant Sharma, who was poor in his first couple of spells. Sangakkara repeatedly tucked and punched Ishant through the on side and used his crease to cut and drive the spinners. He sashayed down the track to crash Ojha to the long-on boundary and swept and cut Harbhajan. Early in his innings, Sangakkara played a couple of expansive shots - one which flew just past short extra cover and the other which vanished over the slips - but he quickly settled down. The trademark Sangakkara hits were on display: the square drive on bent knee, the cover-drive hit with a high front elbow, and the precisely placed cuts and the occasional dash down the track.
His partner Paranavitana had started with two edged boundaries in Ishant's first over but quickly tightened his game. He rarely chased the ball, he rarely tried to play an expansive shot and he rarely looked in trouble. There was a punchy drive through extra cover against Ishant and an off-driven boundary in the same over during the first session. There was also a moment of apprehension, when he got a leading edge against Harbhajan in the last over before lunch, but Gautam Gambhir couldn't react quickly enough at silly point to take it. Paranavitana continued to make merry after the break: He flicked and off drove Mithun, slog swept and straight drove Ojha, and rotated the strike with dabs and nudges.
Sangakkara had chosen to bat after overnight rain delayed the start and left the pitch damp in Galle. Though Sri Lanka lost Tillakaratne Dilshan, who gloved an attempted pull against Mithun, they hardly broke a sweat thereafter.
The manner of Sangakkara's dismissal captured the spirit of the day. The ball was a long hop from Sehwag and Sangakkara pulled it straight to Sachin Tendulkar at deep midwicket. It seemed the only way the Indians were going to buy a wicket and it was aptly gifted to Sehwag, the best Indian spinner on view.
There were couple of other moments that indicated perhaps the course of the Test. The first was when Ishant got a delivery to kick up from short of a length with a puff of dust from the pitch. A few overs later, Ojha drifted one in from round the stumps, pitched the ball on leg and middle and got it to spin across Mahela Jayawardene's bat. Muttiah Muralitharan, eight wickets short of 800, wouldn't have missed either sign.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo