IND vs SL: India in control after Vijay, Pujara tons

M. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 209 runs for the second wicket as India surged ahead of its opponent on Day Two.

Cheteshwar Pujara (right) and M. Vijay frustrated Sri Lanka for most of Day Two.   -  Vivek Bendre

M. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s bulwark for many years, chose the old-fashioned approach of grafting for runs to push Sri Lanka back to the wall in the second Test. After the wonderful work done by its bowling department on Day One, Vijay and Pujara joined forces to extend their overnight second-wicket stand to 209 runs. At stumps on Saturday, India was 312 for the loss of two wickets, ahead by 107 in the first innings after having scored 127 in the post-tea session.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

There was anxious hope when Vijay walked out with K. L. Rahul in the last session on Friday and took guard. After all, Vijay had returned to the ranks after eight months, after taking time out to mend his damaged bottom hand and for rehab, and the selectors and team management were keen to see him get into the groove quickly before the exacting tour of South Africa.

IND vs SL: I felt fantastic, says Vijay after ton

And Vijay didn't disappoint. With 20 minutes to go for tea on Saturday, Vijay reached his 10th century with a single – his 39th on the way to the three figure mark - pushing off spinner Dilruwan Perera to mid off. This was after putting up a gritty show for close to quarter of an hour over five hours.

 

The right hander proved in many ways that neither his skill nor temperament has diminished following his break. He had withdrawn from the Indian team before it embarked for the tour of Sri Lanka last July and paved the way for the recall of Shikhar Dhawan, but a century in the Ranji Trophy match against Odisha had offered clear-cut indications that he was well on his way to compete at the highest level.

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Patient Pujara

While his return to form in the first opportunity he was given was happy news, the opener would surely reflect on ways to reorganise himself to face the challenging times ahead. He had an able ally in Pujara, whose typical show of patience and understanding of the match-situation kept Virat Kohli waiting in the dressing room for five minutes short of five hours.

M. Vijay celebrates his century upon return to Test cricket. Photo: Vivek Bendre

 

There were a number of attractive shots Vijay played on the off-side and straight and once he even stepped down the pitch to lift left-arm spinner Rangana Herath over long-off. He had slices of luck in the first session itself when Sadeera Samarawickrama missed a sharp chance at short leg and also a run-out on the same occasion, in the 17th over of the innings. Then, in the 45th over, Perera at short mid-on and to the right of the non-striker failed to convert a catch getting into body contact with Pujara. Vijay eventually offered a straightforward catch to Perera, sweeping a full toss from Herath.

The Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal made twelve bowling changes in the first two sessions, but he could separate the second-wicket pair only while well into the third session.

Vijay’s partner in many big partnerships, Pujara – the two had an aggregate of 2339 runs before they added 209 to it to go past Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir’s 2372 – took a little longer, five hours and 46 minutes and 59 balls more to reach his 14th century, his fourth against Sri Lanka; the first three were scored in Colombo (two at SSC) and one in Galle. Using his soft hands, Pujara handled the spinners deftly, but on 25 came close to edging Herath into the hands of Angelo Mathews at slip. Otherwise, his shot selection and execution was flawless and crisp.

Acceleration

The arrival of Kohli in the middle 35 minutes after the tea break and after India had taken a 11-run lead was marked by loud cheers by the spectators and a flurry of shots against the spinners and seamers, especially after the second new ball was claimed (237 runs were scored in 80.1 overs prior to this). The run-rate that was a little over two per over at one point of time in the day improved to more than three per over with Kohli and Pujara hammering away boundary shots, and running hard between the wickets. The two have already added 96 for the third wicket. En route to his unbeaten 54, Kohli survived a leg-before review.

Pujara went past 1000 runs in the calendar year and Kohli raced to his 15th half-century and as the weary Sri Lankans returned to the pavilion, off-spinner Perera’s analysis of 19-0-105-0 told the sorry plight of the Sri Lankans; their seamers hardly left footmarks for the spinners to exploit.