Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bagged six wickets as India bowled out Sri Lanka for 183 by tea on the opening day of the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts, who went to lunch struggling at 5-65 after they won the toss and elected to bat, were lifted by a sixth-wicket stand of 79 between skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal.
Chandimal – lucky to survive a dropped catch by wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha off Ishant Sharma in the second over after lunch when he was on five – made 59 with nine boundaries.
Ashwin ended the threatening stand by having Mathews caught superbly by a diving Rohit Sharma at forward short-leg for 64.
Ashwin then trapped Dhammika Prasad leg-before for zero in his next over to claim his 11th five-wicket haul in 26 Tests.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, one of the three spinners in the Indian side, removed Chandimal and Tharindu Kaushal off successive deliveries, but last man Nuwan Pradeep denied the bowler a hat-trick.
Ashwin terminated the innings by bowling Rangana Herath for 23 to finish with 6-46 off 13.4 overs.
Sri Lanka may have fallen for a lesser total if Saha had taken Chandimal’s catch and reduced Sri Lanka to 6-66, but the entire innings lasted just 49.4 overs.
Mathews brought up his half-century with a six over long-on against veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh. He also hit six boundaries.
Kumar Sangakkara, playing the first of his last two Tests before retiring from international cricket, walked in at 2-15 to the bursting of crackers and a warm applause from some 1500 home fans.
The left-hander, the leading run-scorer in Tests among those still playing, faced just 12 deliveries when he fell in the first over after the drinks break for five.
Sangakkara punched the third ball from Ashwin straight to silly-point fielder Lokesh Rahul, who gleefully held on to the sharp chance.
While India picked three spinners in a five-man bowling attack on an unusually dry pitch, Sri Lanka went in with two seamers and two spinners, preferring to bolster the batting with seven specialists.