Ashwin firms India’s advantage after lower-order cameos

Sri Lanka left struggling at 50 for two on Day Two of the second Test, trailing the visitor by 572 runs.

R. Ashwin (right) removed Sri Lanka’s openers before stumps.   -  AP

Batsmen pitched tents and refused to budge. Spinners wove a web and inflicted claustrophobia. The familiar tropes of Indian dominance on sub-continental pitches were in vogue as Virat Kohli’s men, after declaring their first innings at 622 for nine, restricted Sri Lanka to 50 for two on Day Two of the second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club here on Friday.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

R. Ashwin scalped Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne. The former was aghast upon seeing K. L. Rahul pluck a fortuitous catch at short-leg while the latter edged to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip. Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal slog-swept a six off Ashwin and it was the lone streak of rebellion in a script that overwhelmingly favours India.

                                       Nuwan Pradeep ruled out with hamstring injury

Sri Lanka suffered a body-blow with its spearhead Nuwan Pradeep being ruled out for the remainder of the series with a hamstring injury. Though it was initially stated that Pradeep could play a part in the later half of the second Test in progress here at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Sri Lanka opener Dimuth Karunaratne told the media: “Pradeep is out for one or two months.”

Trailing the visitor by 572 runs, the host is resigned to play catch-up for the remainder of the contest. It is a difficult proposition and an incensed local fan, who shouted instructions from beyond the ropes, begged to differ as he kept exhorting the Sri Lankan batsman to stride forward and smother the spin. Easier said than done.

Karunaratne: 'We want to save the Test'

Resuming at the overnight 344 for three, India was relentless and its lower-order prospered. Centurions Cheteshwar Pujara (133) and Rahane (132) added only five and 29 runs respectively to their overnight scores while the tail cumulatively increased the visitor’s total by 238-runs.

Hamstrung by an injured Nuwan Pradeep’s absence, the Sri Lankan attack relied entirely on spin. Against a rival displaying immense batting depth, the host was up against a daunting challenge despite the pitch promising some assistance to the slow bowlers.

Rahane: Footwork key in dominating spinners

When Pujara fell after Chandimal’s men found success through a review, Sri Lanka may have fancied its chances of slowing down India. Pujara’s dismissal ended his 217-run fourth-wicket partnership with Rahane and left India on 350 for four.

Wagging tail

What followed though was a string of vital alliances that delighted Kohli’s men. The subsequent fall of wickets were delayed by partnerships yielding 63, 38, 45, 72, 30 and 24, and there were three fifties, too, with Ashwin (54), Wriddhiman Saha (67) and Ravindra Jadeja (70 n.o.) being the heroes. Chandimal was so bereft of ideas that at one point he stationed six men on the fence!

Ravindra Jadeja played flamboyant strokes in his 85-ball 70. Photo: AP

 

After Pujara left, Rahane and Ashwin motored on. Ashwin, whose batting style is reminiscent of V. V. S. Laxman, was solid. Meanwhile Rahane fell in trying to hoist Malinda Pushpakumara. Beaten in the flight, the batsman was left stranded and Niroshan Dickwella had a lifetime to whip the bails off. It was Pushpakumara’s maiden Test wicket.

Ashwin and Saha then ensured that India had a hearty appetite at lunch and the score read 442 for five. After the break, Ashwin lofted Rangana Herath for six, to reach his fifty and get past 2000 runs in Tests. His twin joys were immediately quashed as he tried to cut the left-arm spinner and got castled.

Plunder

India’s merry stroll continued as Hardik Pandya drilled fours down the ground, threatening life and limb of the umpires. Pandya perished with a miscued strike but a dogged Saha and a belligerent Jadeja aggravated Sri Lanka’s agony.

There was a touch of swagger when Jadeja pulled Dilruwan Perera for six and instantaneously froze his bat-swing. After admiring his pose for a few seconds, Jadeja buckled down for a long stint. He was dropped on 33 by Dhananjaya de Silva as the bowler failed to grab a reflex-catch in his follow-through. And it was time for Ceylon tea and pastries with India ominously placed at 553 for seven.

In the last session, the Indian tail rained sixes while losing Saha and Mohammed Shami. The two also bolstered the ‘maximum-shots’ tally but the most effervescent moment belonged to Jadeja. He reached his fifty and indulged in his signature celebration – twirling his bat as if it was a Rajput warrior’s sword.

Once the declaration was announced, Sri Lanka kept searching for a toe-hold and that could well be its quest for the rest of the contest.