1st Test, Galle

Sri Lanka v India, 2015-16


Sri Lanka players are ecstatic after the 63-run win, Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day, August 15, 2015
Sri Lanka players are ecstatic after the 63-run win in the first Test in Galle © AFP
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Tour and tournament reports : Sri Lanka v India, 2015-16
Series/Tournaments: India tour of Sri Lanka
Teams: India | Sri Lanka

At Galle, August 12-15, 2015. Sri Lanka won by 63 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka.
Years from now, when Virat Kohli finally puts his feet up, he will wonder how this one got away. The numbers spoke of Indian dominance. They bowled Sri Lanka out on the first day for 183, and boasted two of the game's three centurions, a bowler with match figures of ten for 160 and a fielder who broke the record for most catches in a Test.

And yet they were soundly beaten with nearly a day and a half to spare. There could be no better advert for the capriciousness of Test cricket. Even accounting for Chandimal's wondrous 162, this will go down as a match that India lost, rather than Sri Lanka won.The Indians had ticked all the boxes over the first two days, despite Mathews winning what seemed an important toss. With Ashwin at the top of his game, making the most of unexpectedly inconsistent bounce, Sri Lanka were sent into a tailspin, stemmed only by a sparkling partnership of 79 for the sixth wicket between Mathews and Chandimal.

They were bundled out inside 50 overs, with Ashwin fetching six for 46, ably supported by Mishra in his first Test since The Oval in 2011. Sri Lanka's spinners couldn't find the same purchase. India were missing their regular opener Murali Vijay, laid low with a hamstring injury, and lost Rahul and Rohit Sharma cheaply. But Dhawan and Kohli first defied the bowling, then dictated terms in a third-wicket stand of 227.

Kohli was imposing as he made his fourth hundred in four Tests as captain, while Dhawan put mind over matter, battling through an injury to his right hand sustained when dropping Silva. An X-ray later revealed two hairline cracks, forcing him out of the series. Saha, who had earlier fluffed the simplest of catches off Chandimal, made amends with his maiden Test fifty as India opened a lead of 192; off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal's five wickets were no more than a footnote, and he served up a surfeit of full tosses.

When Ashwin and Mishra removed Sri Lanka's openers for ducks in the four overs before stumps, a three-day finish loomed. That feeling was reinforced next morning, whenthey lurched to 95 for five, with Sangakkara flashing a drive to slip. Then Thirimanne joined Chandimal, and the game turned on its head. Both batsmen benefited early in their innings from umpiring errors on close catches, and made them count. Chandimal effortlessly transferred the pressure back to the Indians, who did not react quickly enough to stroke play that was incandescent and innovative, yet devoid of desperation.

Orthodox drives dovetailed with cheeky sweeps as he helped erase the deficit in a stand of 125 with Thirimanne, then put on 82 with Mubarak, before India regrouped to winkle out the tail. Rahane was a key accomplice throughout both innings, holding eight catches - six at slip off the spinners, and two at gully off the quicks - to break a record shared by five others.India were left to make 176 in more than two days, on a track which had slowed up considerably. Only once, at Bridgetown in 1996-97, had they lost when chasing under 200. But, by going into their shells, they played into Herath's hands. After a quiet first innings, he drew blood early in the second - and was all over the Indians. He devastated them with a relentless wicket-to-wicket line, finishing with seven for 48, the second-best figures at Galle, after seven for 46 by Muttiah Muralitharan against England in 2003-04. Sri Lanka's near-certain defeat had been transformed into a memorable victory.
Man of the Match:L. D. Chandimal.

© John Wisden & Co