India rode on Hardik Pandya’s maiden Test ton, off just 86 balls, to reach 487 for 9 at lunch on the second day of the third Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday (August 13) morning.
At the break in Pallekelle, Pandya, 23, was unbeaten on 108 off 93 balls, his knock including eight fours and seven sixes. The tenth-wicket stand with Umesh Yadav is worth 66 runs, with the allrounder contributing 58 runs in the partnership.
Pandya also paired up with Kuldeep Yadav to string a valuable eighth-wicket stand of 62 off 117 balls before exploding in the latter half of the session to flatten Sri Lanka.
After Mohammed Shami fell and India were 421 for 9, the umpires decided to extend the morning session by half an hour. But Pandya denied Sri Lanka the advantage with some scintillating strokes, which included a 26-run walloping of Malinda Pushpakumara in an over (the joint fourth-most expensive over in the format), to help the visiting side rack up some quick runs.
Pandya, who came out to bat late on the first evening, had played a mature innings in the morning to help India first go past the 400-run mark while Kuldeep made sure Sri Lanka didn’t take immediate advantage of the early scalp of Wriddhiman Saha.
Saha (16) was dismissed off the ninth ball at the start of the second day, caught by Dilruwan Perera at gully in his attempt to cut Vishwa Fernando through a small gap on the offside. Pandya and Kuldeep then knuckled down to frustrate the hosts.
Kuldeep struck 26 off 73 before edging Lakshan Sandakan to Niroshan Dickwella behind the stumps. He reviewed, but a long spike on the snickometer confirmed that he had in fact got a thick edge on the drifting delivery.
The Pandya-Shami pair that had toyed with the Sri Lankan bowling attack in the first Tests in Galle couldn’t really get going this time around. Soon after Pandya reached his fifty, Shami (8) returned a simple catch to Sandakan in the 115th over.
It was then that Pandya went into beast mode. When Pushpakumara, who accounted for the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane early on, came in to bowl immediately after Shami’s dismissal, Pandya hit the first five balls for 4, 4, 6, 6, 6 to announce his assault. From there, it was a one-man show.
Earlier, after opting to bat, a solid opening partnership of 188 off 239 balls between Dhawan (119 off 123 balls) and Rahul (85 off 135) had given India a brilliant platform to build on, but the spin duo of Pushpakumara and Sandakan rattled the middle order to give Sri Lanka a boost. Cheteshwar Pujara (8), Rahane (17), Virat Kohli (42) and R Ashwin (31) all fell prey to the spinners as India ended the first day on 329 for 6.
India are now the first visiting team to post 400-plus scores in the first innings of all Tests in a three-match series in Sri Lanka.