It was supposed to be Sachin Tendulkar's big day, but it was Rahul Dravid who ended up stealing the limelight with a fluent century as India amassed a huge 385 for 6 in 90 overs by the end of Day 1 in the first Test against Sri Lanka, in Ahmedabad, on Monday.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also led from the front with the bat, scoring his second Test century, as India, reeling after the loss of four early wickets, recovered to post their highest total on the opening day of a Test.
Dravid finished unbeaten on a fluent 177 from 251 deliveries, inclusive of 26 boundaries and a six, while Dhoni sparkled with a solid 110 from 159.
The two batsmen put on 224 runs in 306 deliveries for the sixth wicket as all the Sri Lankan bowlers suffered after a good start.
It was Dravid's second century partnership of the day. He had earlier rescued the innings, adding 125 runs in 173 deliveries for the fifth wicket with Yuvraj Singh, after India were reeling at 32 for four in the eighth over.
Yuvraj also entertained with a fluent 68 from 93 deliveries, hitting 13 boundaries, before he was caught at silly point off Muttiah Muralitharan.
Earlier, India were made to rue their decision to bat first as they lost early wickets. Chanaka Welegedara was the wrecker-in-chief, claiming the first three wickets to fall. Gautam Gambhir was bowled off an inside edge for 1, while Virender Sehwag threatened briefly with a quick 16 from 11 deliveries before being trapped leg before wicket.
Sachin Tendulkar, who completed 20 years in international cricket on Sunday, hit a boundary off the first ball he faced before becoming Welegedara's third victim of the innings, out for four. VVS Laxman perished for a duck when Dammika Prasad bowled him, courtesy an inside edge.
Morning session: (25 overs, 105 runs, 4 wickets)
Sehwag wasted no time to get going, driving left-arm pacer Welegedara through the covers off the first delivery he faced in the first over of the match. In the next over, he flicked a full, straight delivery from Dammika Prasad through square for his second boundary.
Welegedara dealt India the first blow when he bowled Gambhir for 1. The left-hander played tentatively to a full, incoming delivery without any real footwork and ended up inside-edging one onto his stumps. (14-1, 2.5)
Prasad had a huge leg before wicket appeal turned down against Sehwag in the fourth over of the innings as the ball looked like going down the leg side. The right-hand opener then bagged his third boundary when he slammed a short delivery outside the off-stump through the point region.
Dravid took time to get his eye in and hit Dammika through the covers for his first boundary, as India reached 27 for one after six overs.
Welegedara then doubled Sri Lanka's early advantage with the big wicket of Sehwag. The right-hander was again caught on the crease to a delivery that pitched on the stumps and kept going straight. He was trapped leg before wicket for 16 off 11 deliveries, inclusive of three boundaries. (27-2, 6.1)
Tendulkar, celebrating 20 years in international cricket, started off in some style when he drove a full delivery from Welegedara through the off-side for a boundary. However, he lasted another two deliveries before being beaten by the incoming delivery from the left-armer and bowled through the gate for 4. (31-3, 6.4)
Prasad then compounded India's misery, bowling VVS Laxman off an inside edge for a duck. The right-hander played away from his body without any real footwork and dragged one onto his leg stump as India were left reeling at 32 for four. (32-4, 7.4)
Dravid then flicked a full delivery from Welegedara through square leg for his second boundary of the innings. Yuvraj Singh looked unsure about dealing with the swing and got his first boundary when he edged Prasad through the slips, but two deliveries later showed some authority by cracking one through the covers.
Interestingly, in the last Test that India played at this venue in April 2008, against South Africa, they were dismissed for 76 in 20 overs after electing to bat.
The onus now lay on Dravid to take India to safety after the horror start. The veteran completed 1000 runs against Sri Lanka in his 15th Test, which includes a hundred and eight half-centuries, when his score reached 20.
Despite the early wickets, Yuvraj maintained a positive approach and clipped Angelo Mathews through midwicket for his third boundary in the 12th over.
Sri Lanka packed fielders on the leg side against Dravid, hoping that he would err while trying to flick, but he still managed to pierce the gap for another boundary. He then guided the tiring Welegedara, in his seventh over, between slips and point region to move 29 from 33 deliveries, inclusive of four boundaries.
Yuvraj seemed in complete control, thumping Muttiah Muralitharan straight down the ground for a boundary in the 19th over.
The two batsmen brought up their 50-run partnership in 77 deliveries for the fifth wicket in the 21st over to help India rally after those early wickets.
Dravid looked to unsettle Sri Lanka's second spinner Rangana Herath as he attacked him in his very first over. He danced down the track to a flighted delivery and launched the left-arm spinner straight down the ground for the first six of the innings.
Suddenly runs were coming at a fair pace, as Yuvraj cracked another straight boundary in the next from Prasad. The fast bowler, seething from that blow, gave Yuvraj something to think about when he hit him on the shoulder with a quick short delivery.
It was raining boundaries at the Motera as Yuvraj flicked Herath wide of the mid-on fielder for his seventh one to bring up India's 100 in the 24th over.
Sri Lanka came out with a plan -- to pitch the ball up and on the stumps in the early overs, and the fast bowlers executed it quite well. But once the ball got a bit old, Dravid and Yuvraj cashed in as they hit 11 boundaries and a six between them, with the scoreboard reading 105 for four in 25 overs with a run rate of 4.20.
Post-lunch session: (29 overs, 116 runs, 1 wicket)
Sri Lanka kept things tight after lunch with just two runs coming in three overs after the break.
Dravid, looking to attack at every possible opportunity, broke the shackles with three boundaries off Welegedara in the 29th over.
The right-hander completed his fifty, his ninth against Sri Lanka, off 80 deliveries with a flicked boundary through square leg off Welegedara in the 29th over. Two deliveries later, he hit consecutive boundaries through the covers and wide mid-on to keep the runs flowing at a good rate.
He then brought up the 100 partnership in 146 deliveries for the fifth wicket when he slammed a short delivery through the point region off Mathews in the 32nd over.
Yuvraj completed his half-century off 77 deliveries with a powerful cut shot off Mathews in the 34th over. Off the very next delivery, he presented the full face of the bat and drove Mathews straight down the ground off the front foot to register his 10th boundary of the innings.
The half-century seemed to have lifted Yuvraj, as he slog swept Muralitharan for a boundary over the midwicket region.
The left-hander was clearly uncomfortable with the short deliveries as Prasad struck him again on the body, this time on the left shoulder. He tried to take on the next delivery, once again a short one, but, luckily for him, the inside edge just missed the stumps and went for a boundary. It brought up India's 150 in the 36th over though.
Prasad bowled yet another short delivery but this time Yuvraj was ready and waiting. At the very last minute, he played the uppercut over the slips for the second boundary of the over.
Just when it looked India was running away with the game, Muralitharan struck with the important wicket of Yuvraj. The left-hander danced down the wicket and, realising he had not got to the pitch of the delivery, tried to play a defensive shot but got an inside edge, which was taken by the silly point fielder. (157-5, 36.1)
Yuvraj had played a big role in rescuing India with a cracking knock of 68 from 93 deliveries, having hit 13 boundaries. He added 125 runs in 173 deliveries for the fifth wicket with Dravid as the pair adopted a positive approach to thwart the Lankans.
Muralitharan resorted to bowling round the wicket to Dravid but the batsman still continued finding the boundaries without any problem. He lofted a full delivery from the off-spinner over the midwicket fielder for his ninth boundary to move to 69 in the 39th over.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a wristy drive off a full toss from Prasad through the covers for his first boundary. In the next over, he got another boundary through the fine leg region when Muralitharan pitched it outside the leg-stump.
Dravid continued to torment the Sri Lankan bowlers, smashing boundaries in consecutive overs by Prasad and Muralitharan to make it to the eighties.
Dhoni also blossomed gradually before stepping down the wicket and lofting Herath over mid-off for a boundary and helping India cross 200 in the 46th over.
Dravid and Dhoni were intent on building a partnership. The duo added 50 runs from 83 deliveries for the sixth wicket as India reached 207 for five after 50 overs.
Despite Muralitharan bowling from round the wicket, there was no stopping Dravid, as he straight drove the off-spinner down the ground for a boundary. He seemed desperate to get his hundred in the final over before tea as he cut a short delivery for a boundary to move to 98.
If the first session belonged to Sri Lanka, India had staged a strong fightback in the second session, adding 116 runs in 29 overs for the loss of just one wicket.
Post-tea session: (36 overs, 164 runs, 1 wicket)
Dhoni started in style after the break, using his feet to drive Muralitharan straight past him for a boundary.
Dravid completed his century, his second against Sri Lanka, with a single off Herath in the 58th over. The veteran batsman pumped his fists in delight on completing his 27th century in Tests. It came off 158 deliveries, and was includive of 14 boundaries and a six.
Dhoni then danced down the wicket and flicked a full delivery from Muralitharan over long-on for a six. The veteran off-spinner suffered further when Dravid cracked another straight drive for a boundary as India progressed to 244 for five after 59 overs.
India's captain then brought up his half-century in 80 deliveries when he slammed Welegedara through the covers for his fifth boundary.
With the pitch having dried to perfection for the batsmen, the Indians showed no mercy on the Lankan bowlers. Dhoni stepped down the wicket and drove Herath through the covers for a boundary to move to 109. That shot also took Dravid's tally to 10,932 runs (in his 135th Test), overtaking Steve Waugh's tally of 10,927 in 168 Tests, and making him the fifth highest run scorer.
Dravid then took a single on the off-side to bring up his second century partnership of the day, with Dhoni, in the 63rd over. He had no problem in piercing the gaps through covers every time the bowlers drifted wide. He bagged his eighth boundary through that region when Welegedara pitched full and wide to move to 117 and take his boundary tally to 17.
Dhoni, on 64, got a reprieve when his edge flew between the wicketkeeper and first slip to the boundary ropes off pacer Prasad. A few deliveries later Dravid slapped a short delivery from the same bowler through square leg for yet another boundary.
The last ten overs fetched 57 runs as India continued to attack the bowling. Dravid registered his 20th boundary of the innings when he drove Prasad straight down the ground to move to 133.
It came to a stage where everything Sri Lanka tried yielded nothing at all. Prasad bowled a full length delivery just outside the off-stump but Dhoni had no problems bisecting the fielders on the off-side for yet another boundary.
After a few quiet overs, Dravid got back in the groove with consecutive boundaries off Mathew through the off-side as India progressed to 326 for five after 75 overs.
In the next over, the right-hander took a single on the off-side to bring up his 150 off 216 deliveries. It was the tenth time in Test cricket that Dravid had gone past the 150-run mark as India's position kept getting stronger with every passing over.
It was a rare sight to see Muralitharan looking clueless as the batsman hit him for boundaries regularly through the day. Dravid slammed him for back-to-back boundaries through the off-side as he drifted wide and dropped short.
India reached 349 for five after 80 overs but Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara decided against taking the new ball.
There was no stopping Dhoni and Dravid though as they brought up their 200-run partnership in 279 deliveries for the fifth wicket in the 83rd over.
Dhoni wasted no time in the nineties as he cut a short delivery from Prasad over the point fielder for a boundary to move to 99. He completed his century, his second in Tests, off 154 deliveries, with another delightful boundary through the cover region off Herath in the 86th over.
Dhoni's brave knock came to an end when he edged a short delivery from Prasad to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene attempting the cut short. He scored 110 from 159 deliveries, inclusive of ten boundaries and a six, before losing his wicket three overs from the end. (381-6, 87.1)
Dhoni added 224 runs in 306 deliveries for the sixth wicket with Dravid to give India control after that disastrous start.
Dravid completed 11,000 runs in Test cricket when he took a single to reach 177 in the penultimate over of the day. He becomes the fifth player to reach the landmark after Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Allan Border.
At stumps on day one, Dravid had scored nearly half of India's total. He finished unbeaten on 177 from 251 deliveries as India amassed 385 for six in 90 overs, their highest total on the opening day of a Test match.
Welegedara got off to a dream start with three wickets in his opening spell but thereafter it was a different story as he took three for 75 in 17 overs.
Muralitharan failed to lift his team and went for plenty of boundaries for figures of one for 90 in 23 overs, while Herath conceded 73 runs in 19 overs.