India begins dissecting act as seamers, lower-order give it the edge

Sri Lanka is 446 runs behind on the first innings at Galle with half its side dismissed.

Sri Lanka found itself facing an uphill task after its top order was dented by India’s seamers.   -  AP

India holds the reins in the first Test. Its batting combined top-order supremacy with the tail’s chutzpah and the resultant first innings total of 600 meant that it has nearly sewed up half the contest.

At close on the second day here at the Galle International Stadium, Sri Lanka replied with 154 for five. An effort structured more in hope as the host’s playing eleven is reduced to 10 members following injured Asela Gunaratne’s exit.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Wednesday night displayed the oscillating weather patterns of the tropics. It was about sharp spells of rain and blustery winds but the elements favoured the visitor and the skies cleared on Thursday. India built a strong batting edifice and when Sri Lanka walked out for its first hit, Virat Kohli’s men held the edge.

Dimuth Karunaratne, debutant Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis fell to the pace-duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami. The arduous task of stabilising the innings was left to Upul Tharanga (64) and Angelo Mathews (54 batting) and the two added 57 runs for the fourth wicket.

Tharanga cut well and Mathews smote a few but the former got run-out while trying to unsettle R. Ashwin. Tharanga rushed forward but only deflected the ball to Abhinav Mukund at silly-point. The agile fielder relayed a throw to Wriddhiman Saha and the Sri Lankan opener was left stranded. Once Niroshan Dickwella fell to Ashwin, with Abhinav again coming into play with a brilliant catch, Sri Lanka was down for the count.

Five-for for Pradeep

Earlier in the morning, resuming at 399 for three, India made steady progress despite Cheteshwar Pujara (153, 265b, 13x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (57) being unable to substantially extend their overnight tenures. Pujara eased past 150 before thrusting his bat at Nuwan Pradeep. The seamer was rewarded for his consistency and later he bagged a maiden five-for (six for 132) in Tests.

Pujara’s dismissal ended the 137-run fourth-wicket partnership he forged with Rahane. The latter drove Pradeep but in attempting an expansive drive off Lahiru Kumara, Rahane only managed an edge and the charged-up fast bowler clenched his fists. At 432 for five, India was staring at a Sri Lankan outfit that suddenly found its spark.

Hardik Pandya scored an attacking half-century.

 

The visitor’s tail then lent a twist to the tale. First-up, Ashwin (47) and Saha added 59 runs for the sixth-wicket. Ashwin used his bat like a wand on either side of the pitch. The drives were excellent and the whips past mid-wicket had irreverence. Saha, dogged as ever, withstood a barrage of bouncers from Kumara.

Saha succumbed to Rangana Herath, failing to clear the in-field and Ashwin perished on the hook, edging Pradeep to wicket-keeper Dickwella. India’s lower-half was no dying flame. The desire to depart in a blaze of glory was evident when debutant Hardik Pandya (50) lofted a four off Herath before lunch. India scored 104 for four in 27 overs during the first session.

Making merry

In the afternoon, Pandya was dropped on four, with Karunaratne grassing the chance at first slip, leaving Sri Lanka captain Herath ruing his bad-luck. Though, Pradeep did the classic one-two, a bouncer followed by a yorker, to nail Ravindra Jadeja, Pandya continued unhindered.

Just as the schools in the neighbourhood closed for the day and the jaunty students stepped onto the roads, a merry evening was in the making for India. Shami slammed three sixes off Herath, mighty heaves that left the fielders in the deep redundant. Not to be outdone, Pandya hooked a six off Pradeep and then played a pick-up shot that sailed over the ropes.

By the time Shami and Pandya departed, India had a massive score thanks to its last five wickets adding 168 runs. Sri Lanka needs another 446 runs to draw parity but that is a huge mountain to climb.

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