COLOMBO // The opener Malinda Warnapura cracked an unbeaten half-century to steer Sri Lanka to some respectability as the home team ended a rain-curtailed first day's play of the first Test against India at 85-2 at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground yesterday. Warnapura made 50 in 74 balls with six fours as he held the side together at a time the Indians threatened to make inroads into the batting after Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat first under overcast conditions.
Two sessions of play were lost due to wet conditions from early morning rain and only 22 of the day's remaining quota of 42 overs were possible as bad light ended play. The paceman Ishant Sharma made the first strike for India when he picked up Michael Vandort for 3, the latter edging a rising ball for wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik. Sri Lanka then fell in further trouble when the dependable Kumar Sangakkara fell to a low catch to Rahul Dravid at the first slip for 12.
Warnapura played positively, untroubled by the two dismissals, as he partnered his skipper Mahela Jayawardena who remained unbeaten on 16 to see Sri Lanka through the day's play without further losses. He was hit a few times on the shoulder and elbow by Zaheer, but remained undeterred. India got off to a bright start, when Sharma had Vandort going fishing on a delivery dug short with the total on seven. Zaheer then removed Sangakkara, but after he had added 50 for the second wicket with Warnapura, who batted superbly to reach his half-century before stumps were called early. The 29-year-old had added 28 with Jayawardena, who faced 27 deliveries and struck a couple of fours.
Both, Warnapura and Jayawardene will now hope to build on their scores and set the platform for a decent first innings total when play starts 30 minutes early. More rain is predicted over the remaining four days. Ajantha Mendis makes his Test debut and the spotlight is on the 23-year-old spinner expected to bowl in tandem with his more illustrious team mate Muttiah Muralitharan, who has taken a remarkable 20 per cent of all his Test wickets on this ground.
India included Gautam Gambhir, who gets another chance to resurrect his Test career, but the rest of the batting looks formidable with Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. The return of Zaheer and Harbhajan Singh with skipper Anil Kumble boosts their bowling attack. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org