Galle, Aug 12: Off-spinner R Ashwin spun a web around Sri Lankan batsmen with a 6-wicket haul as India dismissed the hosts for a paltry 183 in the first innings to gain the upper-hand on the opening day of the first cricket Test here today.
Scorecard; DRS debate returns
India's premier spinner recorded his best overseas figures of 6 for 46 in 13.4 overs to trigger a collapse that saw the islanders being shot out in just 49.4 overs in their first innings after skipper Angelo Mathews opted to make first use on a track that had turn on offer on the first day itself.
At stumps, India looked in command as they reached 128/2 after opener KL Rahul (7) and Rohit Sharma (9) were dismissed cheaply.
Shikhar Dhawan seemed to continue from where he left off in Bangladesh as he stroked his way to an unbeaten 53 while skipper Virat Kohli looked supremely confident during his undefeated knock of 45.
India are only 55 runs short of Sri Lanka's first innings total and will be looking to build a sizeable lead on a pitch that is offering substancial turn at times.
The first day panned out exactly in the manner that skipper Kohli might have wanted it to be.
Ishant Sharma (1/30 in 11 overs) bowled a good opening spell where he hit the deck hard to extract disconcerting bounce.
One such delivery that took off from short of good length saw left-hander Dimuth Karunaratne (9) fend it awkwardly as Ajinkya Rahane took a simple of catch running forward from gully.
Kaushal Silva (5) was a touch unlucky after Shikhar Dhawan earlier dropped a dolly at first slip off Varun Aaron's (1/68 in 11 overs) bowling.
But this time was ball that was dug short which Silva wanted to pull but hit his arm guard as Dhawan ran back to dive and take a catch. The replays showed that umpire Nigel Llong got it wrong.
Once Ashwin was brought into the attack in the 12th over, he completely stamped his supremacy on the islanders.
Kumar Sangakkara (5) had a forgettable first innings in his penultimate Test match as he tried to push one off-break off the back-foot which saw young Rahul take a sharp catch at silly point.
With Sri Lanka reduced to 27 for three, it became increasingly difficult for them to claw their way back into the game.
Vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanne (13) pushed at an off-break and Rahane at first slip pouched it.
Jehan Mubarak (0) didn't trouble the scorers as he was snapped by Rahul at forward short leg leaving hosts 60 for five. They went into the lunch precariously placed at 65 for five.
Mathews top-scores with 64
However, skipper Mathews 64 off 92 balls with six boundaries and a six along with talented Dinesh Chandimal (59) added 79 runs for the sixth wicket as the Lankans showed signs of revival in the post lunch session.
They were helped by the fact that Wriddhiman Saha dropped a sitter presented by Chandimal off Ishant's bowling.
Harbhajan Singh (0/17) didn't look incisive during the eight overs that he bowled. Although the only big hit off him was a six down the ground by Mathews, the 'Turbanator' was not a threat.
Amit Mishra also did not look to effective and both his wickets came by virtue of dismissing the tail-enders.
It was Ashwin, who again put a spanner on the home team's revival hopes as Mathews tried to whip an off-break and Rohit Sharma standing at forward short leg smartly caught it on second attempt.
Chandimal hits Aaron for 4 boundaries
At 139 for six, Chandimal started a counter attack as he hit the profligate Aaron for four boundaries in an over as he also completed his half-century.
However at 155, Dhamika Prasad (0) was trapped plumb in-front by a classical off-break from Ashwin.
Rangana Herath (23) then helped himself to a few slogged boundaries but Chandimal after a well-made 59 lost his patience trying to hit Mishra out of attack and was caught at first slip.
Tharindu Kaushal (0) was Mishra's second victim while Ashwin capped off a good day when Herath's cross batted heave saw the stumps disturbed.
When India batted, Prasad first trapped Rahul leg before in the 3rd over and then troubled number three batsman Rohit Sharma (9) also.
Another failure for Rohit
In the 9th over of the innings, he trapped Rohit leg before with an inswinger, the same delivery with which he had dismissed Rahul. But umpire Bruce Oxenford over-turned his decision after checking for a no ball.
The batsman was on eight then, but could not make it count as he was dismissed in the very next over, this time trapped leg before by skipper Mathews (1-12).
Dhawan, meanwhile, made a watchful start against Prasad, but was severe on his new-ball partner Nuwan Pradeep (0-32).
He hit four boundaries off him in the initial spell and helped the score move along. When Kohli came to the crease, India were placed at 28/2, but together they batted watchfully against the combination of pace and spin.
Off-spinner Kaushal lacks control
Off-spinner Kaushal occasionally troubled the batsmen, but he lacked in control shown earlier by Ashwin.
Later, Rangana Herath was introduced into the attack, but the two batsmen were well set by then. India's first fifty runs came in only 13.2 overs, and then the two batsmen brought up the 100-run mark in the 27th over.
There were a couple hiccups on the way though. In the 18th over, Dhawan, on 28 had been dropped off Kaushal by Mathews at slip, and then Kohli, on 17, gave a tough chance to short leg off Herath in his very first over.
In the 22nd over, there was a mix-up between the two as well, but Lanka missed the run-out chance.
Dhawan then brought up his 3rd Test fifty off 92 balls in the 31st over of the innings, and the two batsmen saw off the day without any further damage.