The series began, like the two preceding ones in Sri Lanka, with a home win at Galle. India's only consolation was that a defiant half-century from Dravid ensured that, unlike South Africa and England, they did not suffer the ignominy of an innings defeat. Even so. Jayasuriya needed only two scoring shots to complete a ten-wicket victory on the fourth morning, having already played a major role in his team's first win over India for 15 years by contributing a stroke-filled century to their first-innings total of 362. India, who had gone into a Test without Tendulkar for the first time since April 1989, recorded their lowest total against Sri Lanka in the first innings, then did even worse in the second.
Sri Lanka had never before fielded four seamen in a home Test. This shift of emphasis derived from a policy of producing pitches with grass and bounce in the run-up to the 2003 World Cup, and Jayasuriya. winning the toss for the 18th time in 22 Tests, put India in on a strip that looked green but was dry underneath. Initially, as the openers ground their way to 79 without loss in three hours, his decision looked mistaken. But the complexion of the innings, as well as the match, changed when 22-year-old fast bowler Fernando took the second new ball at 155 for three and snatched two wickets just before the close. Next morning he completed a fiery spell of five for 18 in seven overs to record his best Test figures. He also struck the little finger of Srinath's left hand, which eventually forced him out of the series.
India had surrendered their last six wickets for 32 runs, and Jayasuriya promptly capitalised by seizing the initiative. He blazed away, cutting and pulling, unleashing a stunning square cut for six over point off Srinath as well as hitting 16 fours in his I I1, made off 138 balls. Harbhajan Singh dismissed Atapattu after a two-hour century opening stand, and would have added Sangakkara, whose place was under pressure, for eight had Dravid not missed the chance at slip. It was a costly mistake; the spunky Sangakkara batted for six hours, almost twice as long as Jayasuriya, to hold the innings together while wickets fell at the other end to the Indian pace men. Tillekeratne. recalled for his first Test since March 1999. made little impression.
Earlier in the year, Sangakkara had twice narrowly missed his maiden Test hundred, against South Africa and England, and he was 93 here when last man Muralitharan came in. Murali saw him to his century - the 100th by a wicket-keeper in Tests, going back to Englishman Harry Wood's unbeaten 134 against South Africa at Cape Town in 1891-92 - and was out three balls later, a fifth wicket for Srinath, who had bravely sent down 25 overs.
Trailing by 175, India were soon under more pressure, slumping to 81 for six against pace and spin. They were all at sea against Muralitharan's guile, which some of them were encountering for the first time. and he picked up his 25th five-wicket haul in Tests. Dravid alone held out, for 219 minutes, getting India into the fourth day and making sure Sri Lanka had to bat again, even if their target was merely six. Of more concern to the Sri Lankans was their fourth seamer, Suresh Perera, who bowled just 12 Overt in the match without a wicket and was reported to referee Cammie Smith by umpire Steve Bucknor over his action.