Cricket: De Silva cuts a dash

Sri Lanka 316-7 v India
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Aravinda De Silva hit a fifth successive century on home soil yesterday to lift Sri Lanka to a respectable total after they had been put in by India on the opening day of the second Test.

The 31-year-old withstood a spirited bowling display by the Indians to score an unbeaten 144 and, in the process, become Sri Lanka's leading scorer in Test cricket with 4,098 runs from 63 matches, including 13 centuries.

The Indian bowlers finally found form on a seaming wicket at the Sinhalese Sports Club after Sachin Tendulkar won the toss. The debutant Debashish Mohanty justified his inclusion as the third seamer with the wickets of Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama. The new ball partners, Venkatesh Prasad and Abey Kuruvilla, shared four wickets as the Sri Lankan top order gifted their wickets.

Sri Lanka were 274 for 7 after tea before the tail-ender Muttiah Mullitharan (25 not out) helped De Silva put on 42 for the unbroken eighth wicket. De Silva defied the Indians with 20 boundaries during his 346-minute stay at the crease. He now has 679 runs in his last five home Test innings.

Tendulkar's decision to put Sri Lanka in to bat under overcast conditions paid off despite a frenzied start by Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu, who hammered 53 runs in the first hour. Jayasuriya hit 32 with eight boundaries before becoming Mohanty's first Test victim.

Mohanty, coming on as first change, struck in his third over as Jayasuriya edged a wild drive to Tendulkar at first slip. In the next over, Atapattu edged a head-high catch off Venkatesh Prasad to Mohammad Azharuddin at second slip to make Sri Lanka 59 for two.

Mahanama and De Silva took the score to 121 when Mohanty once again provided the breakthrough as Mahanama chased a wide ball into Azharuddin's safe hands in the slips.

De Silva and Ranatunga, whose contribution was just 14, had put on 71 for the fourth wicket when Tendulkar turned to Saurav Ganguly to stem the flow of runs and the slow medium-pacer obliged with the wicket of the Sri Lankan captain, whose drive was snapped up by the wicketkeeper, Nayan Mongia.

SRI LANKA - First Innings

S Jayasuriya c Tendulkar b Mohanty 32

M Atapattu c Azharuddin b Prasad 19

R Mahanama c Azharuddin b Mohanty 37

A de Silva not out 144

*A Ranatunga c Mongia b Ganguly 14

M Jayawardena c Mongia b Prasad 16

R Kaluwitharana b Kuruvilla 7

C Vaas b Kuruvilla 10

M Muralitharan not out 25

Extras (b4, lb4, nb4) 12

Total (for , 26.3 overs) 316

Fall: 1-53, 2-59, 3-121, 4-192, 5-230, 6-249, 7-274.

To bat: R Pushpakumara, S de Silva.

Bowling (to date): Prasad 23-4-97-2, Kuruvilla 20-5-68-2, Mohanty 17- 4-69-2, Kumble 24-7-51-0, Ganguly 4-0-23-1.

India: *S Tendulkar, S Ganguly, N Sidhu, R Dravid, M Azharuddin, A Jadeja, N Mongia, A Kumble, A Kuruvilla, V Prasad, D Mohanty.

Umpires: T E Jesty and J F Steele.