The old familiar story seemed to unfold once again when the Indian openers Rahul and Dhawan systematically took the bowling apart as they rattled along at a rate of around six an over to reach 134 – 0 by lunch. Round one had ended decisively in India’s favour. The Sri Lankans needed just one break. [...]


Young Lankan spinners hurt Indian pride

Visitors lose steam after Dhawan blitz

The first to go...... Lankan left arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara celebrates along with his team mates after getting the initial breakthrough. The wicket of Lokesh Rahul for 85. Pic by Amila Gamage

The old familiar story seemed to unfold once again when the Indian openers Rahul and Dhawan systematically took the bowling apart as they rattled along at a rate of around six an over to reach 134 – 0 by lunch. Round one had ended decisively in India’s favour.

The Sri Lankans needed just one break. Rahul provided that by holding out to mid on. The left armers, bowling with tandem, then began to chip away at the Indian batting.

After Dhawan was picked up by the skipper, Kholi came in and played quite sedately. The bowlers, who met with no success in the morning, suddenly found themselves in business in the next two sessions.

From a bowling point of view, this was Sri Lanka’s best day in the series. It also proved that there could be life after Herath.

In hindsight, the selectors seemed to have been spot on in their choice of the playing eleven.

Dhawan and Rahul had, by lunch, laid the platform for another embarrassingly massive first innings total by reaching 134 off 27 overs. Both batsmen benefited from dropped chances. Dhawan on one, saw an outside edge go between Pushpakumara and Mendis in the slips. Fernando was the unfortunate bowler.

Art 28, Rahul essayed a lifted drive which was misjudged by Kumara. He got a hand to it, but couldn’t hold on. Sri Lanka had let the openers off the hook, not for the first time.

Sandaken was brought on just before lunch and was immediately able to exert some control. Perera was infuriatingly short of a length and the consequence was that Rahul was able to get easy runs on the on side.

The high point of the session was the sixth over of the morning when Dhawan collected 16 over a Lahiru Kumara over. Two short balls were beautifully flayed through point off the back foot.

The bowling was not at all that testing and the batsman had to make a mistake to be dismissed. In Sandakan’s first over after the break, Rahul cut a delivery that was of a fullish length and the edge flew past the face of Mathews.

Perera, the most experienced of the Sri Lankan spinners was dealt with by Dhawan, who skidded down the track and lofted over mid off. Tahe next ball was savagely pulled to the mid wicket boundary.

The Lankan bowlers were not able to contain the batsmen for any length of time. Chandimal had a full hand of bowlers, but the problem was that, barring Perera, they were all short of experience and woefully lacking in confidence.

Dhawan as his wont, raced away to his fifty in 45 balls and was on 64 not out at lunch. Rahul took longer for his half century but began to overhaul his partner after the break. They had taken the total to 188, when the unexpected happened.

Pushpakumara, a late-entry to the attack struck in the 40th over when Rahul stepped out and lofted to Karunaratne at mid-on. The latter pulled off a very good catch. Pujara tended to get bogged down but Dhawan was the next to go as Chandimal made a difficult catch look easy at short square leg. However the opener could be well satisfied with his second hundred in three Tests.

The struggling Pujara edged Sandakan to Mathews at slip ten minutes later to make it 229 for three. The Lankan team could be very satisfied with their efforts in the post lunch session where 134 runs had been leaked in 27 overs before lunch, the next two hours, wielded a mere 121 off 29 overs.

Towards tea, the combination of Sandakan and Fernando really dried up the runs. It may have been that Kohli and Rahane were playing for tea.

The combination of Sandakan and Fernando continued to put a break on the scoring after tea. There was a moment of sheer magic when Kohli imperiously drove Fernando through cover to the boundary. Proceedings were quiet. Rahane moved down the pitch to Pushpakumara, played down the wrong line and was castled. So the last bowler to be tried had turned up the trumps and picked up three wickets.

Kohli has found that big scores eluded him on tour, saved the inconsequential second innings at Galle. This was in a way, an un-Kohli innings. The aggression, the urge to dominate, the Kohli ‘persona’ were missing. Hardik in tandem with Saha, played out time. Both of them come into the all rounder class.

Credit should be given to the left arm spinners who accounted for almost all the wickets. In addition, they were not at all expensive. Seamer Fernando did a decent back-up job. Not giving the batsmen too many easy pickings.


India 1st innings
Shikhar Dhawan
c Chandimal b Pushpakumara 119
( Attempts to sweep right off the middle to the square-leg fielder)
Lokesh Rahul
c Karunaratne b Pushpakumara 85
(Looks to lift it over mid-on, but drags it flat to the fielder)
Cheteshwar Pujara
c Mathews b Sandakan 8
(Tries to square cut edges it to first slip)
Virat Kohli
c Karunaratne b Sandakan 42
(Playing too far away from the body, healthy edge to the slips)
Ajinkhya Rahane
b Pushpakumara 17
(Late on the stroke as the ball slides through between bat and pad)
Ravichandran Ashwin
c Dickwella b Fernando 31
(Batsman holds out and gets an outside edge to the keeper)
Wriddhiman Shah not out 13
Hardik Pandya not out 1
Extras (b-6, lb-5, nb-2) 13
TOTAL (For 6 wickets in 90 overs) 329
Fall of wickets:1-188 (KL Rahul, 39.3 ov), 2-219 (S Dhawan, 47.1 ov), 3-229 (CA Pujara, 50.1 ov), 4-264 (AM Rahane, 65.4 ov), 5-296 (V Kohli, 78.2 ov), 6-322 (R Ashwin, 87.6 ov)
To bat: Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Bowling: Vishwa Fernando 19-2-68-1, Lahiru Kumara 15-1-67-0, Dimuth Karunaratne 5-0-23-0, Dilruwan Perera 8-1-36-0, Lakshan Sandankan 25-2-84-2, Malinda Pushpakumara 18-2-40-3

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