Not even in their wildest dreams could Sri Lanka have hoped for a better day in the second Test than the one they had in Galle today, where they brushed aside the India lower order inside the first hour and then stroked themselves confidently into a position of utter supremacy.
Prior to the second new ball being taken in fading light last evening, India were 155 for three and competing on level terms. Sixteen overs later the innings had closed after a breathtaking and quite lethal spell of fast bowling by Dilhara Fernando.
Fernando, bowling with an intensity and pace not seen by a Sri Lankan bowler in their 20-year Test history, added three wickets to the two he snaffled last night and also forced strike bowler Javagal Srinath to retire hurt. India lost their last six wickets for 32 runs and were bowled out for 187.
Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya then scored a typically entertaining century off just 105 balls, his third against India and the eighth of his 60-match career, as Sri Lanka finished the day 77 runs ahead having scored 264 for three.
The Sri Lankan batsmen were only able to take control of the game because of Fernando's second new ball burst, which left him with career best figures of five for 42, his second five wicket haul in his seven Test career.
Fernando's emergence is of great significance to Sri Lankan cricket. He has added an extra dimension to the attack and removes some of the overbearing responsibility placed on Chaminda Vaas's and Muttiah Muralitharan's shoulders. Finally, there is a new match winner.
The key to his success today and his promise for the future lies in the natural pace that is generated by his broad shoulders. Yes, the pitch offered some extra bounce, but it was essentially slow in pace and a good batting track. Fernando though produced deliveries that spat from the dry surface and whistled through to Kumar Sangakkara behind the wicket, who frequently resembled a goal keeper in a penalty shoot out.
The crucial wicket was that of Sourav Ganguly (15), who was adjudged to have gloved a short ball, as he took evasive action. Television replays proved inconclusive, but Ganguly certainly felt aggrieved, believing that ball had only flicked his shoulder.
Ganguly's wicket left a long tail exposed. Srinath was painfully hit on his left hand by Fernando and wisely decided that it was in the interests of the team for their main strike bowler not to be maimed. He retired hurt.
Sameer Dighe (9) committed the cardinal sin of ducking under a bouncer, but leaving his bat in the air like a periscope and Sangakkara took another acrobatic catch. Harbhajan Singh (4), clearly anxious, flailed one boundary through the covers, but was eventually bowled off his pads as he backed away to leg. Ventakesh Prasad (0) was promptly cleaned up by Muralitharan's straighter ball.
When Sri Lanka batted, they breezed along at four runs per over, as India's opening bowlers offered Jayasuriya generous width in his favourite areas. He duly accepted the offerings and carved the bowlers through the off side (79 of his 111 runs were scored on the off side). Prasad was flogged for three fours in one over and Srinath was clouted for 17 during one over in his second spell.
The Sri Lankan captain added 101 runs with his opening partner Marvan Atapattu (33), who played patiently and correctly with perpendicular front elbow, before he was caught at bat-pad off Harbhajan Singh.
Indeed, were it not for a marathon bowling spell from Harbhajan Singh, India would have been batted out of the game. All the batsmen struggled to score off him. Jayasuriya was able to cut him and, later in the day, Russel Arnold swept him, but otherwise he could only be worked with great care.
Kumar Sangakkara batted at number three and answered his critics with a battling unbeaten 54 in three hours. He was reprieved at slip when he had scored just eight and contributed only 14 runs to a 70-run partnership for the second wicket with Jayasuriya, but he kept his cool and accumulated steadily.
After Jayasuriya was finally dismissed, caught at slip by Rahul Dravid off a well directed short delivery from Zaheer Khan, Mahela Jayawardene batted confidently, scoring 28 from 42 balls, before he was caught behind in Srinath's third spell.
Arnold joined Sangakkara and the pair rounded off a fine day for Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 53-run partnership for the fourth wicket.