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November 17, 2009

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Dravid, Dhoni lead fightback

RAHUL Dravid's stirring 27th test century and an exuberant 110 by skipper Mahendra Dhoni helped India pile up 385 for six on the opening day of the first test against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad, western India, yesterday.

Former India captain Dravid stroked 177 not out and shared in a 224-run sixth-wicket stand with Dhoni after Sri Lanka quick Chanaka Welegedara had reduced the hosts to 32 for four with a three-wicket burst.

Dravid showed exemplary shot selection as he crafted a spectacular innings studded with 26 fours and a six and also took his test aggregate past the 11,000-run mark.

Welegedara dismissed openers Gautam Gambhir (1) and Virender Sehwag (16), and Sachin Tendulkar for four, before Dammika Prasad clean bowled Vangipurappu Laxman for a duck to raise Sri Lanka's hopes of recording its first test win on Indian soil.

With Sri Lanka's regular paceman Nuwan Kulasekara dropped and Thilan Thushara out with a shoulder injury, Welegedara made the most of being called up for only his second test after a two year absence with a scintillating early spell after India chose to bat first.

After Gambhir played on to his stumps, the paceman trapped Sehwag leg before and bowled Tendulkar in the same over with a delivery that swung in.

Dhoni was caught behind when he attempted to slash at Prasad in the 88th over.

Harbhajan Singh was at the crease with Dravid at stumps as India fell one run short of equalling its record for the most runs scored in a single day of a test.

Yuvraj (68) recorded his seventh test fifty with two boundaries off pacer Angelo Mathews, before master spinner Muttiah Muralitharan dismissed him.

Muralitharan, playing in his last overseas test series, had the left-hander caught at short cover to put Sri Lanka in a strong position at 157 for five on a good batting pitch.

But Dravid and Dhoni, who recorded his second test hundred, broke Sri Lanka's grip with a terrific partnership - scoring at a quick rate, especially in the final session.

Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, picked ahead of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, proved ineffective as the Indian pair cut loose.


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