Galle (Sri Lanka), Aug 12: India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin turned on the heat with a triple strike this morning to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 65/5 at lunch on the opening day of the first Test here.
Electing to bat on a a dry wicket, Sri Lanka had the worst of starts after pace spearhead Ishant Sharma struck in the seventh over of the innings and the hosts just kept sliding further.
Dimuth Karunaratne (9) was Ishant’s victim after giving away a catch to Ajinkya Rahane at gully. Sharing the new ball with Ishant, Varun Aaron struck in the very next over to get opener Kaushal Silva (5) back in the pavilion.
Kaushal was dropped on nought by Shikhar Dhawan at first slip against Aaron, but failed to capitalise on it.
Spin was introduced in the 12th over and it was an all Ashwin show after the off-spinner struck right away to pack off Kumar Sangakkara (5), who is playing the penultimate Test of his illustrious career.
The veteran left-handed batsman edged a slow-turner, off the backfoot, to silly pint where Lokesh Rahul took a reflex catch.
Ashiwn kept up the pressure after that and got Lahiru Thirimanne (13) edge one to slip as Rahane took a good low catch to his left.
Jehan Mubarak (0) was Ashwin’s third victim as Mathews (26 not out) and Dinesh Chandimal (5 not out) hung on till lunch.
Earlier the hosts made two changes from their last Test against Pakistan, with Sangakkara coming in for Upul Tharanga and Rangana Herath for Suranga Lakmal.
The Virat Kohli-led side went in with five bowlers, opting to play all three spinners , Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh, in the eleven.
Ishant and Aaron started proceedings only after a brief delay with the sightscreen. The pacers though didn’t settle in with their line and length straightaway, largely on account of the crosswind blowing through the open ground.
The Lankan openers, Karunaratne and Kaushal made a slow start only to lose their wickets soon after.
The pacers’ line got much straighter as the overs went by, particularly Ishant as he started coming round-the-wicket to the left-hander.
Thirimanne and Sangakkara fended off the fast bowlers with relative ease, although they were beaten outside the off-stump on a couple of occasions.
The turning point of the session came when Ashwin was introduced into the attack, and he bowled a nagging line straightaway using the first-day dry wicket to full effect.
Making his 50th Test appearance Mathews was the only batsman to look comfortable at the wicket as he went about his business. The Lankan 50-run mark came up in the 18th over and it looked that the two batsmen had tided over the storm.
But two more wickets and the Lankan innings was in shambles as the skipper and Chandimal look to resurrect in the second session.