After the run feast at Ahmedabad, there were runs galore once more on the first day of the Kanpur Test. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir hit scintillating centuries and Rahul Dravid approached one towards the end of the day as India finished on a historic 417 for 2 – a record for India on the first day of a Test. An ominous looking Sachin Tendulkar was giving Dravid company on 20. All this after Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss and decided to bat first at the same venue where he first captained India in a Test – a year ago against South Africa.
The Indian openers began slightly hesitantly. Virender Sehwag, in particular, struggled. The third ball he faced – from Chanaka Welegedara – was a wide one. All he managed to do was edge it behind the wickets. Unfortunately, wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene dived across Mahela Jayawardene at first slip, who then could not judge the ball properly and ended up flooring it. Not long after that, medium pacer Angelo Mathews beat him all ends up. But having survived the tough initial period, Sehwag and Gambhir rocked leaving the Sri Lankans completely shell-shocked.
The opening duo played shots all over the park and the Sri Lankans bowlers – both pacers and spinners – could do very little. Gambhir’s knocks consisted of super hits down the ground down, delectable late cuts and lofty strokes off the spinners. Sehwag, on the other hand, was his usual effervescent self being especially severe on the spinners. Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis have been a thorn in India’s flesh in recent times, but not on this day. And playing a third spinner in Rangana Herath under the conditions in place of a pacer backfired rather embarrassingly as the left-right hand combination did not allow anyone from the trio to settle.
Gambhir took a liking to Herath in his very first over slamming him for three boundaries – one through the covers, one through point and the third one down the ground. The southpaw continued to be severe on Herath throughout the day. Sehwag, meanwhile, enjoyed himself at the expense of Mendis and Muralitharan. He literally toyed with them, constantly hitting them over the top and piercing the in-field with utter disdain enroute to his ton. As expected, he fell going for another boundary, an inside-out attempted against Murali ending up in the hands of cover. But, by then the damage had been done. Sehwag made a memorable 131 and added 233 with Gambhir, their highest stand till date to lay a magnificent platform for the team.
If Lankans thought, they could breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of Dravid walking in, they were wrong. Bolstered by the start, the number three batsman was at his assertive best. He drove, cut and punched with utmost confidence, as most of the strokes found the meat of the bat. Even in defence, he was rock solid as ever. At the other end, Gambhir looked set for a double hundred when Murali’s guile finally worked and the left-hander was caught and bowled for a majestic 167.
Considering a start they have got, India would have to play atrociously poorly to lose from here. But to win, they will need their bowlers to be in top form and better response from the pitch compared to the graveyard in Ahmedabad.
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