IND vs SL: Jadeja shines with bat and ball, India in command

Ravindra Jadeja smashed a career best 175 not out to put India on top against Sri Lanka in the first Test.

Ravindra Jadeja after scoring a century in Mohali on Saturday.   -  PTI

Ravindra Jadeja enjoyed one of the finest days of his Test career to help consolidate India’s advantage on a one-sided day two at the PCA stadium here. He smashed a career best 175 not out (228b, 17x4, 3x6) – first grafting then slogging merrily after lunch – before getting rid of opener Dimuth Karunaratne with a sharply-turning delivery in the post-tea session as Sri Lanka struggled to hang on in the contest and faced an uphill climb ahead.

The odds of a befitting first-innings reply to India’s 574 for 8 declared dimmed half an hour before close of play, when Angelo Mathews was dismissed leg-before-wicket by Jasprit Bumrah. He was perhaps a little unlucky to be given out. The ball was short of a good length and hit him high on the thigh pad; the on-field umpire had given it out, however, and the verdict couldn’t be reversed. A huge blow had been struck. And one more - the fourth - had fallen by stumps, R. Ashwin removing Dhananjaya de Silva with a sharp off-spinner, the ball hitting the batter’s left pad as he tried to play a slog-sweep.

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On the field, Sri Lanka endured phases of absolute mayhem against spin, and so its top-order batters weren’t averse to using their feet for big hits against the Jadeja, Ashwin, and Jayant Yadav. Karunaratne hit Jayant, perhaps the least threatening of the three spinners, for back-to-back boundaries in the 14th over, and Ashwin was hit, too, on occasion, by both Karunaratne and the No. 3, Pathum Nissanka. Mathews, on the other hand, was content to target Jadeja, his nemesis – Mathews has got out six times to Jadeja in his career – but only to those deliveries sitting up for him to slog.

Cautious start to the day

The day was set up by Jadeja as he laid anchor for a considerable period in the morning, playing sedately alongside Ashwin (61, 82b, 8x4). That there was another treat in store later – Rishabh Pant had given a spectacular exhibition on day one – wasn’t clear. Some of Ashwin’s strokes for boundaries were a treat to watch, especially two straight drives: the first one was off a good length delivery from Fernando in the 101st over, and the other was off a full delivery from Embuldeniya which was converted into a full toss by the batter as he came down the pitch.

The pitch was flat and dry, and the reverse-swing, if obtained, wasn’t causing difficulties. It didn’t help that Lahiru Kumara, who left the field during his 11th over on day one, couldn’t take the field due to a hamstring tear.

All attention was on Jadeja as he moved to 97 with a cover-drive off Embuldeniya, taking toll of a delivery slightly overpitched. Soon after, he moved to 99 with a pull off Lakmal, who decided to test the batters out with the short balls for that over. With Ashwin also in the mood to go for his strokes, the bait worked, Ashwin moving to 61 with a fierce pull to midwicket before nicking a shorter, faster delivery behind.

Boundaries galore

Jadeja had thus far played judiciously, using his feet well to mainly collect his boundaries via cuts and pulls. He brought out his atypical celebration upon reaching his century, twirling the bat in his left hand as if playing with a sword, and decided to shift gears, just as Pant had done after he had reached his half-century on day one.

The post-lunch session was haze of boundaries and sixes as Jadeja went after Fernando, Ebuldeniya and Dhananjaya. Exacerbating Sri Lanka’s agony was also a faux pas on the field amid all the boundary hitting – Fernando fumbled the ball as he attempted to run Jadeja out in the non-strikers’ end after a mix-up between the batters, and by the time he realised he had to relay the ball to the other end quickly, it was too late, the wicketkeeper spreading his arms in agony. The dismissal of Jayant Yadav – he edged to the slips a delivery from Fernando going across with the angle from over the wicket – was a minor aberration.

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Jadeja teed off in the 121st over, collecting 15 runs in that over by Embuldeniya (including 14 off three deliveries), en route bringing up India’s 500. He skipped down the pitch for a six down the ground, cleared his front leg to slog the next ball for four, and then steered a short delivery towards deep backward square leg. Soon after, he pulled a short one from Dhananjaya to midwicket for four, before slogging hard to long-off for his second six, bringing up his 150 with panache.

Mohammed Shami (20 n.o., 34b, 3x4), who hadn’t contributed much to the partnership till then, joined in the fun, driving and cutting for boundaries. And when Jadeja stepped down once again to hit Embuldeniya for six, he had registered the highest score by a No. 7 batter for India. The 100 partnership was up, too, off just 91 deliveries. With 574 on the board, Rohit Sharma decided it was enough. It was the team’s first 500-plus score since October, 2019.

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