India defied ghosts of past Galle defeats as they came up with a dominating performance to take a 1-0 lead in the three match Test series against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Against a feeble home attack, spin twins R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja shared six wickets among themselves as India pocketed the opening Test by a massive 304 runs.
Set a mammoth 550 runs to win and with two full days to go, the doors were literally closed on Sri Lanka.
Finger injuries ruled out Rangana Herath and Asela Gunaratne as India needed eight wickets to start the series on a winning note. They did that in style by scripting a record away victory - highest runs margin.
King Kohli slams 17th Test ton
At the start of day's play, India skipper Virat Kohli required just 24 runs to reach the three figure mark. Kohli who resumed on 76 brought up his 17th Test ton and 10th as captain before setting Sri Lanka an improbable target.
It was an important knock for Kohli who warmed up for the rest of the series after missing out in the first innings. India will be playing Test matches away and it was important for Kohli to have some runs under his belt.
Sri Lanka with deep field settings tried to stop the Indian captain from looting boundaries. But an unperturbed Kohli raced away to his ton as India looted 51 runs in the 6.3 overs they played in the morning.
"We lost a Test we should have won in 2015. This time it was a clinical performance two years down the line. Really happy with the way things went in this Test. The surface did not offer much, and that's why the win is special. It's an example of the skill they possess, and persistent pressure always pays. The opening competition is a happy headache. It felt nice that it came off nicely. Abhinav batted well and he deserved a hundred," the skipper said after the match.
Indeed, it was a clinical performance and India would be happy with runs flowing from the skipper's willow.
The follow-on conundrum
Should Virat Kohli have enforced follow-on on the third day of the Galle Test? Well this debate is on and it just not applies for Kohli but for all captains across Test playing nations.
Captains nowadays prefer not to enforce follow-on and rather decide to bat for the second time. This gives them a licence to inflict more agony on the opposition and literally bat them out of the Test match.
Since the famous 2001 Kolkata Test match where VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did the unthinkable, on most occasions, teams have generally decided not to enforce follow-on. That gives their bowlers time to cool their heels while the batsmen with calculated approach further strengthen the team's position.
India too are following the same pattern and even at Galle, despite being in a winning position, Kohli decided to bat again.
The result - skipper made a century, the opposition was further ragged on the field and Sri Lanka were grinded further into submission.
Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav both made early breakthroughs before the spin twins took over to finish the job. The pattern seems working and if it is yielding results, why change it!
Peerless Pujara delivers yet again
Cheteshwar Pujara loves just one thing. Batting, batting and more batting!
While, he was ignored by all the IPL franchises, Pujara silently boarded the flight to London to play county cricket. He played a few games for Nottinghamshire, scored a hundred and a fifty, and come Sri Lanka, he was ready.
Pujara got into business straightaway and showed no signs of rustiness as he smashed yet another century.
His 153 in the first innings helped India post a mammoth total of 600 and his 253-run stand with Shikhar Dhawan put India in the box seat.
"I played about four county matches, which always helps. When I have some time in between Tests, and if I'm not a part of the IPL, I prefer to go and play some county cricket. The reason is it gives me exposure of playing in different conditions and facing different bowlers," Pujara said.
"Playing county cricket is always challenging. You never get easy runs. Most of the times, you're playing on challenging wickets. It teaches you a lot. You grow as a cricketer, your technique improves and when you come and play international cricket again, you've some experience of playing first-class cricket and you are always in touch with the game," Pujara added.
Relief for Mukund
Comebacks are hard and its all the more tough when a batsman knows even a century won't guarantee him a place in the next Test match. That's the same spot Abhinav Mukund found himself in when he was drafted into the playing XI after KL Rahul was down with viral fever.
Donning the whites inspired Mukund who made a brilliant 81 in the second innings and narrowly missed out on what could have been a deserving maiden hundred.
Nevertheless, the Tamil Nadu batsman said that being a part of the Indian team was a bonus.
"I was just raring to even put on whites. I wasn't part of any team, I wasn't part of any first-class team. There was a time when I was dropped from my own first-class team. To have this opportunity to be part of the Indian team is such a huge bonus. I take every game as an opportunity, that's all. If I am part of the team, not part of the team, again, I will try to do my best wherever I am," he said.
Mukund in all certainty will be left out once Rahul recovers. But this innings will boost his confidence and he will start to look things in a different perspective.
Shikhar Dhawan was holidaying in Hong Kong and was supposed to board the flight to Melbourne to be with his family when he got the call.
His family will have to wait for some more time as Dhawan with a career-best 190 took charge of his sinking Test ship. With that knock, Dhawan has given a selection headache to Kohli as who will partner Rahul once Murali Vijay is fit.
It will be hard on Kohli to drop an opening batsman who smashed a breezy 190 and scored a century in one session. But such headaches are good for Indian cricket especially the tour of South Africa coming up.
"I really enjoyed batting over here. I just watched the ball and backed my game. There is a very healthy competition from the opening spot in the side, and it keeps me on my toes," Dhawan who was adjudged the man-of-the-match said.
Kohli and Ravi Shastri started their second stint on a wonderful note.
The top-order contributed, Hardik Pandya responded with a fifty on debut, the fast bowlers made early inroads and the spinners spun a web around the Sri Lankan batsmen.
A well-oiled Team India will now travel to Colombo and come August 3, with the series at sight, Kohli might just switch on the autopilot mode.