Dravid, Dhoni hit tons to put India in command (Roundup)

Ahmedabad, Nov 16 (Inditop.com) In a rare exhibition of dazzling strokeplay, Rahul Dravid hammered an unbeaten 177 and inspired his skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to hit a century and Yuvraj Singh a fifty as India recovered from a nightmarish 32 for four to end the opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at 385 for six here Monday.

Seldom has one seen Dravid in such an aggressive mode. He has never scored so many runs in a day’s play. In the process he has crossed the 11,000-run mark and was involved in two century partnerships — 125 with Yuvraj and 224 with Dhoni. It was his 78th century partnership, a world record. All added up to another record, the highest score by India in a day’s play.

After Dhoni decided to bat, within the first hour India lost their top four batsmen, three of them to fast bowler Chanaka Welegedara (3/75) in what looked like a re-run of their disastrous batting display when they were shot out for 76 by South Africa in April last year at the Sardar Patel Stadium in the Motera neighbourhood of Ahmedabad.

Dravid and Yuvraj decided to take the bull by the horns. In an unusual display of counter-attack, they smacked the bowlers all around the park, scattering the fielders breathing down their necks.

Yuvraj hit Dhamika Prasad (2/90) for two fours in the 10th over to set the tone of the partnership. He smashed Muttiah Muralithran (1/90) for a boundary in the spinner’s first over while Dravid lifted left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for a huge six straight down the ground.

Despite wickets tumbling at the other end, 100 runs came up in the 24th over and India went into lunch at 105 for four. Even after the break, Dravid was in full flow and hit Welegedara for three fours in the 29th over to step up the run rate.

Yuvraj hit 13 fours during his 93-ball stay at the crease. He was foxed by a loopy delivery by Muralitharan and gave an easy catch to Tillekaratne Dilshan.

After Yuvraj’s departure, Dhoni went on match Dravid stroke for stroke.

Dravid’s 251-ball stay was studded with 26 fours and a six while Dhoni hit 10 boundaries and a six in his 159-ball knock. The duo played some crisp shots on both sides of the wickets as 164 runs came off 36 overs in the last session.

Dhoni got to his century in style hitting a four off Dhamika Prasad but failed to carry on after edging the fast bowler to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene in the next over.

Earlier, Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara might have thought that it was a good toss to lose after Welegedara and Prasad gave excellent starts.

Welegedara provided the breakthrough as Gautam Gambhir (1) played on, dragging an outswinger onto the stumps. Welegedara was on fire as he went on to pick up Virender Sehwag (16) and Tendulkar (1) in three deliveries to put India on the backfoot. Prasad chipped in crashing through the defence of V.V.S. Laxman, and India lost four wickets in 30 deliveries.

For Dhoni it might have looked like a bad toss to win in the first seesion but at stumps India were clearly dominating.