A clever hundred by Tillakaratne Dilshan, supported by half-centuries from Tharanga Paranavitana and Angelo Mathews playing the innings of their young careers, took Sri Lanka to a comfortable total on the first day at the Brabourne Stadium. Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth bowled probing spells during the middle parts of the day but Dilshan and Mathews made sure a good start was not wasted on a pitch that had started to turn and bounce on the first morning of the Test.
The Sri Lankan openers caught the new-ball bowlers on the hop and ran away to a brisk start and after that they didn't let India build momentum, losing two wickets on the trot only once. India did not control the run-rate either, except during that brief phase when Harbhajan and Sreesanth tested Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan. Sri Lanka scored only 59 runs in 16.5 overs in that period and then lost two wickets for one run but Mathews and Dilshan wrested the momentum again by scoring quickly. Their partnership involved a bit of luck but it worked and Sri Lanka eventually scored the most runs in a day for a team visiting India.
There wasn't much luck involved, though, when Paranavitana and Dilshan punished Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan, continuing the trend of frenetic first sessions in the series by scoring 116 runs. Unlike Kanpur, this pitch kept the bowlers interested with swing, bounce and turn - it wasn't prodigious but more than enough for a first morning.
Paranavitana, full of intent, leaned into the first delivery of the match and drove it through covers. Zaheer Khan was guilty of over-pitching while looking for swing. The most incredible shot of the morning, though, came when Paranavitana was saving his toe from an inswinging yorker from Sreesanth. The bat came down just at the right moment, and the ball flew through midwicket for four.
While Zaheer erred looking for swing, Sreesanth failed to control the bounce and in the process was smashed by Dilshan for a six and a four off consecutive deliveries. A different test awaited the batsmen, though, when Harbhajan was introduced in the 12th over, with the score on 65. He got off to his best start in the series, enjoying the bounce and the turn, and got some good loop going.
While Dilshan looked to hit the other spinner, Pragyan Ojha, out of the attack right away, Harbhajan kept improving. He finally drew Paranavitana outside off and got the edge with the break. Kumar Sangakkara didn't look comfortable against either of the spinners and tickled Ojha down the leg side when looking for a single. Dilshan had reached 53 off 70 balls by then but, watching the ball turn, soon began to play a completely different game.
Sreesanth, during a much-improved second spell, made Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene play cautiously. He got the ball to swing both ways, mixed up his deliveries and, after four overs of hard work, slipped in the surprise bouncer. Jayawardene, his energies spent in countering the swing, instinctively went for the hook and top-edged. Harbhajan was immediately brought back and he got a straightforward bat-pad dismissal against Thilan Samaraweera.
Dilshan, though, kept wriggling out of India's grasp. Every time Harbhajan looked like pinning him down, he either pulled out the paddle-sweep or stole singles. At the time of Sangakkara's dismissal, Dilshan had scored 34 of his 53 runs in boundaries but the next 40 featured just three fours. He never let Ojha settle, kept driving Sreesanth's outswingers for ones and punished every loose delivery from Harbhajan, scoring 38 runs off 64 deliveries against the offspinner. Dilshan's respect for Ojha showed in the manner in which he stepped out and hit a straight six in the last over before tea. That shot took him to 99 and, after the break, he reached his 11th hundred on the same day that he crossed 1000 runs for the year.
Harbhajan was the beneficiary when Dilshan was erroneously ruled out bat-pad when there was a sizeable distance between bat and ball. By then, though, he had added 76 for the fifth wicket, 47 off which came off Mathews' bat. Mathews had started shakily, edging Zaheer and Sreesanth through gully, top-edging and inside-edging Harbhajan for fours, and toe-ending a pull through slips for four.
However, Mathews capitalised on his good fortune in a manner that hurt India. He negated Harbhajan with the sweep, started focussing on the singles, and let Prasanna Jayawardene take the leading role in the sixth-wicket partnership. The sweep was Prasanna's favourite shot too and runs came at a fair pace as India waited for the new ball. When Prasanna fell to the last ball of the 80th over, for 43 out of a 77-run stand, India took the new ball immediately.
Nuwan Kulasekara swung his bat merrily and 30 runs came in the next five overs before Zaheer got his first wicket. With Rangana Herath falling just before stumps, Harbhajan finished one short of a five-for. And Mathews was 14 short of a maiden century.