COLOMBO, Aug 3: Cheteshwar Pujara chose an apt occasion to profess his never-ending love for red-ball cricket, scoring another classy century as India reached 344/3 against Sri Lanka, here on the first day of the second Test.
On a day, when Pujara played his landmark 50th Test match and was also recommended for the prestigious Arjuna Award, the Saurashtra right-hander remained unbeaten on 128 � his 13th hundred in the longest format.
Ajinkya Rahane (103 batting) also roared back to form after a patchy last season hitting his ninth Test ton while adding 211 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket stand as Sri Lankan bowlers once again had a poor day in office.
Comeback man KL Rahul (57) and senior opener Shikhar Dhawan (35) will be cursing their luck, having missed out on a run-feast against a below-par home team attack.
Rahul in-fact looked good for a big one before an unfortunate mix-up led to his run-out. Skipper Virat Kohli (13) was the only batsman to be dismissed cheaply.
Pujara was an epitome of patience facing 225 balls, hitting 10 fours and a six while Rahane was more attacking in his 168-ball effort, that had 12 boundaries.
En route his second successive hundred in the series, Pujara also completed 4000 Test runs. His sequence of Test scores over the past few Test matches before the current one � 17, 92, 202, 57, 153.
He also became the seventh Indian batsman to score a century in his 50th Test match. The illustrious six before him are Polly Umrigar (1961) Gundappa Viswanath (1979), Kapil Dev (1983), VVS Laxman (2004) and Virat Kohli (2016).
He also became the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar to score hundreds in three consecutive Tests in Sri Lanka.
In the final session, Pujara-Rahane duo took India across the 250-mark with ease.
Rahane reached his half-century off 83 balls, inclusive of 6 fours. The duo crossed their 150-partnership with ease as India�s 300 came up in the 77th over of the day.
Three overs later, he survived a leg before shout via DRS off Malinda Pushpakumara (0-82) but the ball seemed to be going down leg.
Thereafter, Rahane celebrated the double hundred partnership with Pujara. When he tapped for a single to complete his hundred, it was more like an elation for Rahane, who got a Test hundred after nearly 10 months. His last hundred was 188 against New Zealand in Indore last year.
Rahane survived another lbw shout via DRS off Rangana Herath (1-83), but there was a clear inside edge and umpire Bruce Oxenford had to reverse his decision.
India 1st Innings: Shikhar Dhawan lbw b Dilruwan Perera 35, KL Rahul run out (Chandimal/Dickwella) 57, Cheteshwar Pujara batting 128, Virat Kohli c Mathews b Herath 13, Ajinkya Rahane batting 103. Extras: (B-4, NB 1, LB 3) 0. Total: (for 3 wkts in 90 overs) 344. Fall of wickets: 56-1, 109-2, 133-3. Bowling: Nuwan Pradeep 17.4-2-63-0, Rangana Herath 24-3-83-1, Dimuth Karunaratne 3-0-10-0, Dilruwan Perera 18-2-68-1, Malinda Pushpakumara 19.2-0-82-0, Dhananjaya de Silva 8-0-31- 0. � PTI