INDvsSL: Dhawan dazzles as India fights back

Shikhar Dhawan played a 116-ball 94 knock on the fourth day of the first Test at the Eden Gardens on Sunday. India finished at 171 for one, the match heading for a draw.

Shikhar Dhawan walks back to the pavilion in Kolkata on Sunday.   -  PTI

His swagger, laughter and twirling of the moustache endear him to fans, send out a message to the opposition. When the surface suits his style, Shikhar Dhawan delights.

The left-hander can hustle bowlers, walk down the pitch to pacemen, and clobber spinners. Bat with the spirit of an adventurer.

He did that during his stroke-filled 116-ball 94 on the fourth day of the first Test at the Eden Gardens on Sunday. India finished at 171 for one, the match heading for a draw.  

The ease and flow in Lokesh Rahul is hard to miss. When two essential ingredients – footwork and timing – come together, batting becomes an art form.

Full scoreboard and ball-by-ball details

Walking out in a pressure situation – Sri Lanka had a lead of 122 – the right-left duo entertained a boisterous crowd of around 25,000 with their contrasting styles.

One of the adages in cricket is – make the most of the conditions. The two openers did so.

The sun shone bright, drying out the moisture, and the pitch eased considerably after lunch. The ball still carried through well but the lateral movement was gone.

A PERFECT TEN FOR INDIAN PACERS

Kolkata: Some records fell by the way side during the fourth day’s play at the Eden Gardens.

It was the first time since 1983 – Kapil Dev scalped nine West Indian batsmen and Balwinder Sandhu took one in Ahmedabad then – and the third occasion overall that the Indian pacemen picked all 10 wickets of an innings in a home Test.

And the nine overs of spin in the Sri Lankan innings here was the lowest by Indian spinners in the first innings of a home Test.

When he resumes his unbeaten innings on Monday, Cheteshwar Pujara will become only the third Indian, M.L. Jaisimha and Ravi Shastri being the others, to have batted on all five days of a Test. In all, eight batsmen have achieved the feat.In the rain-affected Test, Pujara played 32 deliveries on day one, 70 on the second day and 15 on third, all during his 117-ball 52 under trying conditions in the Indian first innings.

Coming in at the fall of Shikhar Dhawan's wicket on day four, Pujara is batting on two. -- S. Dinakar

Dhawan used his wrist and bat-speed to power the ball to the fence, whether drilling it through cover, sending the sphere racing square off the wicket, jabbing jauntily or whipping it. His batting has this raw, rather visceral, quality about it.    

The southpaw missed a hundred but walked back to a rousing ovation after getting a thin edge to a delivery that straightened from seamer Dasun Shanaka. The opening pair blitzed 166 in 37.1 overs.

Rahul’s driving in the `V’ and through covers was gorgeous. Paceman Lahiru Gamage was struck through the off-side with nonchalance.

READ: Sri Lanka shows steel as India struggles

The opener’s on-drive, so elegant, reflected his balance. Rahul (73 batting) was fortunate, though, on 22 when Gamage grassed a difficult return catch. Just when it sought early breakthroughs, Sri Lanka’s bowling was hampered by a leg niggle that spearhead Suranga Lakmal picked up. He left the field after bowling two overs and by the time he returned, Dhawan and Rahul had stroked India out of trouble.   

In the morning, Herath showed he had steel in his bones. The old soldier, he is 39, relishes the sniff of a duel, even if there is a need to chip in with the bat.

His combative instincts came to the fore again during a counter-attacking 67 that enabled Sri Lanka’s lead swell.

The left-handed Herath has a rather compact game for a tail-ender. Intelligently, he made many runs off his back-foot, cutting, punching and pulling. And when he slashed, he did so hard.

Importantly for Sri Lanka, the short-statured Herath strung together partnerships with 43 in 88 balls for the eighth wicket with a resolute Dilruwan Perera and then 46 in 81 deliveries for the ninth with Lakmal.

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The Indian pacemen impressed in parts but did not quite bowl a consistent off-stump line like Lakmal & Co. did in the first innings. On this pitch, the seamers had to bowl on one side of the wicket with nothing given on the leg-side.

But then, there were occasions when the Sri Lankan batsmen were handed offerings on the leg-stump that were promptly put away. The pacemen seemed to attempt too many different deliveries when the pitch was still conducive.

Shami was back in the morning with his fitness concerns turning out to be no more than a bout of cramps. Between some loose stuff, he unleashed some gems.

The enterprising southpaw Niroshan Dickwella (35) saw a fiery Shami delivery darting across him and finding the edge. Shami removed skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who had displayed some resilience if not typical fluency, with one that zipped away. Shanaka padded up to an incoming delivery from Bhuvneshwar.

Eventually, Shami and Bhuvneshwar scalped four each. Their figures could have been a lot better.

Control is the essence of bowling. Ask a certain Glenn McGrath.