1st Test: Pant, Vihari fifties power India to a formidable 357/6 against Sri Lanka

Mohali, March 4 (IANS) Half-centuries hit in contrasting styles by Rishabh Pant (96 off 97 balls) and Hanuma Vihari (58 off 128 balls) powered India to a formidable 357/6 against Sri Lanka on day one of the opening Test at the IS Bindra PCA Stadium on Friday.
It was a day where all the Indian batters got starts after Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bat first, but could not translate into big scores, except Pant and Vihari. Sri Lanka stopped Virat Kohli from reaching a fifty in his landmark 100th Test but couldn’t stop Vihari and Pant from making a big impact with the bat.
Their bowling attack, which had three seamers and one specialist spinner, was in complete contrast to the three spinners and two pacers picked by India on a pitch that had grass all over except the full-length area.
India were quick in racing to 62/1 at the end of the first hour in a totally dominant show by the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal. The duo made the most of the wayward line and length from Sri Lanka bowlers, who struggled with keeping the run-flow and no-balls in check.
But Sharma fell while trying to pull off Lahiru Kumara to fine leg, falling yet again while trying to unfurl his favourite shot after doing so twice in the over. Vihari, coming in at number three for the first time in Tests, began well with delightful shots on both sides of the wicket.
Vihari continued to grow comfortable at number three while seeing Agarwal prod forward and be beaten on the inner edge off Lasith Embuldeniya. Kohli entered the crease with loud cheers and didn’t disappoint fans as he presented full face of the bat for a glorious straight drive off Vishwa Fernando.
Post-lunch, Vihari gently drove a full toss from Embuldeniya down the ground. He and Kohli slammed boundaries and looked at ease to bring up the fifty of the partnership for the third wicket. Vihari reached his fifty in 93 balls with a single through fine leg. Kohli, with his 38th run, brought up his 8000th run in Test cricket with a neat single through point. It made Kohli the second player after Australia’s Ricky Ponting to reach 8000 runs in the 100th Test.
The 90-run partnership between Vihari and Kohli came to an end as Embuldeniya got the latter out for 45. The left-arm spinner got a fuller ball to turn just a little bit past Kohli’s outer edge, trying to defend on back-foot, to hit the top of off-stump. Three overs later, Vihari aimed to drive away from the body but chopped onto his stumps off Fernando.
Losing two wickets in quick succession pushed India on the back-foot. But Pant, promoted to five in order to counter Embuldeniya, walloped the left-arm spinner over long-on and added a 53-run partnership with Shreyas Iyer to take India out of a tricky situation. Sri Lanka’s troubles increased when Kumara walked off the field without completing his over.
But part-time off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva separated the duo by getting one to spin back in from round the wicket and beat Iyer’s inside edge to trap him plumb lbw in front of stumps.
Pant then got support from Ravindra Jadeja, who stole boundaries off de Silva and Embuldeniya. The left-hander was unafraid to play the waiting game while showing signs of aggression to get boundaries in order to reach his fifty in 73 balls.
From there, Pant shifted gears in blazing fashion, dancing down the pitch and lofting twice over long-on and deep mid-wicket for back-to-back sixes. Pant then cut Embuldeniya twice through cover and point to take 22 runs off the over.
De Silva also came under attack from Pant, who he’ved him over the bowler’s head for four followed by a loft down the ground for six. Pant further took de Silva to cleaners with successive fours through deep mid-wicket and down the ground.
Sri Lanka got a much-needed breakthrough soon after taking the second new ball as Pant fell short of his century by just four runs. Pant, who made 46 in his last 22 balls, tried to defend on the backfoot with no footwork off Suranga Lakmal but the ball went through the gate to clip the off-stump bail. Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin slammed five fours to maintain India’s comfortable hold on day one. At stumps, Jadeja was batting on 45 and Ashwin on 10.
Brief scores: India 357/6 in 85 overs (Rishabh Pant 96, Hanuma Vihari 58; Lasith Embuldeniya 2/107, Dhananjaya de Silva 1/47) against Sri Lanka

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