Colombo: Skipper Virat Kohli and opener KL Rahul rescued India to 97 for two at lunch after Sri Lanka struck early blows on the opening day of second cricket Test here on Thursday.
Electing to bat at the P Sara Oval, Kohli (48 not out) and Rahul (39 not out) shared unmbeaten 85 runs for the third wicket to steady India's innings after the visitors lost opener Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane (4) with the scoreboard reading just 12.
Dhammika Prasad (2/29) picked up both the Indian wickets.
It was not a happy return return to the playing eleven for Vijay, who missed the first Test due to a hamstring injury. His stay at the crease was shortlived as he was caught plumb in front of the wicket in the fourth ball of the morning by a perfect inswinger Prasad.
To everyone's surprise, Ajinkya Rahane (4) then came out to bat at number three in place of Rohit Sharma, who vacated the spot after only three Tests. But the move backfired big time as Rahane edged a Prasad delivery to third slip in the fifth over of the day.
It could have been worse for India had Jehan Mubarak held on to a regulation catch at gully offered by Rahul, then on 11, off Dushmantha Chameera (0/24) in his opening over. Rahul continued to look scratchy for the remainder of the session as well, but never offered a clear-cut chance again.
At the other end, Kohli was looking solid and played some attractive strokes. He was aggressive against Rangana Herath (0/17), who was introduced into the attack in the 15th over,
Kohli used his feet to perfection against Herath and deposited the left-arm spinner for a six straight down the ground. The 50-run partnership between Kohli and Rahul came up in the 18th over, while India had crossed the 50-run mark earlier in the 13th over.
Chameera, who surprsingly bowled first change, generated good pace but was unable to make further inroads into the Indian batting. In the 21st over of the innings, Tharindu Kaushal (0/13) was introduced into the attack, but Kohli and Rahul easily negotiated the passage of play till lunch.
Earlier, India made three changes in their playing eleven bringing in Murali Vijay, Stuart Binny and Umesh Yadav in place of injured Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh and Varun Aaron. Sri Lanka made one change to their side with fit-again Dushmantha Chameera coming in for the injured Nuwan Pradeep.
Before the play began, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur felicitated retring Kumar Sangakkara for a glorious international career. Sangakkara, who is playing his final Test here, then walked onto the field to a guard of honour given by the Sri Lankan players.