Motera Test: Dravid and Dhoni help India recover
Rahul Dravid and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni cracked sparkling centuries as India staged a remarkable recovery after a dramatic top-order collapse on the opening day of the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka at Motera on Monday.
Dravid produced a gritty unbeaten 177 and found an able ally in captain Dhoni (110) as the duo pulled the team out of the pits and steered India to a commanding 385 for six at close on an eventful opening day.
Tottering at 32 for four in the eighth over following a triple strike by rookie left arm pacer Chanaka Welegedara, India were hoisted up by Dravid's 27th ton and his three figure partnerships with Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni, for the fifth and sixth wickets.
The Indians, despite the early jolts, scored at a brisk pace right through the day but fell just one run short of the record first day total made by India, 386 against South Africa at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai in 2007-08.
Image: Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Shot selection was the hallmark of Dravid's innings
The hallmark of Dravid's innings, his second hundred against the visitors, was his shot selection and the ability to stay put when the Lankans were on top in the morning.
He slowly and surely upped the tempo before playing splendid drives, flicks, square cuts and pull shots.
After the departure of Yuvraj (68), who played a typically aggressive knock with 13 fours, Dravid forged forces with Dhoni to first consolidate the innings further and then take it to a higher plane with a 224-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
Dravid, in scoring his second hundred at this venue, also moved past former Australia skipper Steve Waugh to stand fifth in the all-time list of run-getters in Test cricket.
The Indian middle-order mainstay stood fifth in the queue at the end of the day after passing the 11,000-run mark just before stumps when on 177.
Image: Rahul Dravid celebrates his hundred at Motera
Dhoni registered his second Test ton
Dravid and Dhoni, who joined the when the score read 157 for five, were unstoppable on a wicket that eased out from the morning freshness and simply tore into the hapless Lanka bowling.
Dhoni left at the fag end of the day, edging a wide ball from Prasad behind the stumps, before Dravid and Harbhajan Singh saw through to the end without being separated.
Dhoni was caught behind when he attempted to slash at Prasad in the 88th over.
Dhoni's 110 was his second century in Test cricket and came close on the heels of his impressive ton (124) against Australia at Nagpur in the recently concluded one-day series.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Welegedera's first spell read 7-2-28-3
The day began in disastrous fashion for India, barring the winning of the toss by Dhoni, as they were done in by some good swing bowling chiefly by Welegedara, playing in only his second Test, and careless batting.
Welegedara led the Lanka assault on the much-vaunted India batting line-up and dismissed the top three batsmen in a fiery opening spell to leave the hosts struggling at 31 for three.
Swinging the ball in late, the 28-year-old Lankan struck three big blows, including two in four balls, to bring down the home team on its knees and raise visions of a repeat of the last Test here when India were bowled out by South Africa for 76 in 20 overs in the opening session in April, 2008.
Welegedera's first spell read a splendid 7-2-28-3 and his victims were openers Gambhir, Sehwag (16) and champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
With Sri Lanka's regular paceman Nuwan Kulasekara dropped and Thilan Thushara out with a shoulder injury, Welegedara made the most of being called up for only his second test after a two year absence with a scintillating early spell after India close to bat first.
Right arm pacer Dhammika Prasad, playing in only his fourth Test, struck another blow from the other end to send back Laxman for a duck that left India punch-drunk at 32 for four before Dravid and Yuvraj stemmed the rot.
Image: Chanaka Welegedara
Tendulkar's celebration was rudely halted
After being rocked by the cheap dismissals of openers Gautam Gambhir (1), Virender Sehwag (16), Sachin Tendulkar (4), entering his 21st year in international cricket, and V V S Laxman (0), it needed a determined and ever-so-steady Dravid to stem the rot and he did it with aplomb.
Tendulkar's celebrations, as he stepped into his 21st year in the international game, were rudely halted by the superb bowling of Welegedara.
The Master Blaster was bowled with a delivery that swung in.
However Dravid, playing each ball on merit and uncorking splendid clips off toes and drives to covers and to the on-side, and a belligerent-looking Yuvraj, carried on from the lunch-time score of 105 for four when the second session of play began.
The Bangalore stalwart played second fiddle as his partner Yuvraj went on the offensive after the duo raised their century partnership in quick time (109 minutes) and off 146 balls.
While the rest of the batsmen, including Yuvraj, seemed to be in the one-day mode with the amount of limited-over cricket under their belt, Dravid alone played the ideal game for the lengthy version of the game, coming into the match with three half tons in four Ranji Trophy innings for Karnataka.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar