India gain psychological points in draw

After rain and poor weather consumed most of Days 1 & 2 of the first Test between India & Sri Lanka, what transpired was classic Test cricketing action. Sri Lanka were dominant with the ball and put India on the back foot, early in the game. The hosts, however fought back heroically to grabbed momentum in the third and the fourth innings. India walked away the more confident team after they threatened to win the game after setting a target of 231 for the visitors.

On Day 1, Sri Lanka won the toss and put India in to bat on a very green surface. Sunil Gavaskar went on to state that there was hardly any difference between the colour of the outfield and the pitch. Suranga Lakmal made the most of the surface and the conditions. He snarled up KL Rahul with a scorcher on the first ball of the Test series.

Soon after the fall of the first wicket, India lost Dhawan & Kohli cheaply, the skipper for a duck. Rain came pelting down halting play after just 11.5 overs. Lakmal’s figures read; 6-6-0-3. India came out on Day 2 needing a partnership to settle the nerves. Cheteshwar Pujara was at his watchful best, as he played out some good bowling & survived the morning. However, there wasn’t much play on Day 2 either, with the weather intervening, allowing just 22 overs. Sri Lanka picked up the wickets of Ajinkya Rahane & Ravichandran Ashwin, and were dominant once again.

The sun was out on Day 3, and promised to allow more cricket. Cheteshwar Pujara got to his fifty early in the day, but lost his wicket soon after getting to the landmark. Reduced to 79/6, Jadeja & Saha added a vital stand before both of them got dismissed in quick succession. However, the Indian tail wagged, as Mohammed Shami contributed with a 22-ball 24. India were bowled out for 172, but not before adding some valuable runs.

The Indian pacers enjoyed bowling on the surface when their turn came. They got two early wickets, that of the Lankan openers. However, Thirimanne & Mathews hung in there and ensured that the Indian bowlers didn’t run through the batting order. They stitched a 99-run stand and were looking threatening to take the game away from India. Against the run of play, both Thirimanne & Mathews lost their wickets inside 3 overs. Chandimal & Dickwella saw the team off till stumps without any further casualty.

On Day 4, the Lankans crossed India’s total to attain a lead in the first session. They suffered a setback when they lost three wickets in 10 balls. The set batsmen, Chandimal & Dickwella were gone and Shanaka didn’t trouble the scorers at all. It was up to Rangana Herath & Dilruwan Perera to build on Sri Lanka’s lead. Herath counter-attacked by playing ambitious shots and got to an entertaining half-century. Suranga Lakmal gave him good company, but the Lankans were bowled out for 294, as they amassed a lead of 122 runs.

When the Indian openers came out to bat, it seemed like they were not the same pair that batted in the first innings. With the sun beating down and no exaggerated movement, they made merry by scoring freely. KL Rahul started briskly, while Dhawan picked up later and took on the bowlers with ease. The former got to his fifty first, and Dhawan followed minutes later. They brought up India’s first 100-run stand in the team’s second innings since 2008.

Shikhar Dhawan feathered one to the keeper in his 90s, missing out on a well-deserved century. KL Rahul though, went on to bat till stumps, with Pujara for company. Pujara went on to join an elite list of batsmen at the start of play on Day 5. He became the 9th batsman to have batted on all 5 days of a Test match. He couldn’t celebrate the feat with another handy contribution, as Rahul & Pujara fell to Lakmal’s brilliance. The quick dismissed Rahane for a duck, giving India something to think about, and look to take the total to safety.

Kohli & Jadeja got the innings back on track with a crucial partnership, although it didn’t have the runs to show. They blunted Lakmal’s threat, and Kohli eventually began to free his shoulders. It seemed like a complete Kohli-show once he crossed 50. The others couldn’t hang in there for long once Jadeja lost his wicket. Kohli though, picked up the gears and accelerated in an attempt to extend the lead and set a target. He closed in on his century and Shami took on the bowlers. The skipper got to his 50th international century with a glamorous six, and declared the innings at that very moment, on 352/8. Team India set a target of 231 for the Lankan with a little over a session left to play.

The Indian bowlers fancied their chances with the pitch still having something to offer for the seamers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar & Mohammed SHami gave the team a perfect start, getting rid of the openers in similar fashion. Samarawickrama & Kanuratne looked to get on top of the bounce and fend the ball down, but ended up chopping the ball on to their stumps.

Right after Tea, Bhuvneshwar Kumar accounted for Thirimanne’s wicket, and Sri Lanka slipped further. The experienced Mathews & Chandimal got together and looked to bail the Lankans out. Their stand didn’t last long enough, as Umesh Yadav trapped Mathews right in front. The former Lankan skipper opted for the review, but umpire’s call prevailed as the ball was hitting the leg stump cleanly.

Chandimal & Dickwella put up a fight, as the Indian bowlers kept going at them with all they had. As the day was coming to a close, the ball began to reverse slightly and caused a lot of problems for the duo. Dickwella played his shots from time to time with considerable success. Shami broke the resistance with the big wicket of Chandimal. With just minutes left and light deteriorating every second, Bhuvneshwar Kumar set the cat among the pigeons as he trapped Dickwella in one over, and followed up with a cracking ball to bowl Perera in the next.

With the Lankans reeling on 75/7, the umpires decided to bring the light-meter out, and deemed it too dark for further play. Perhaps if rain hadn’t played spoilsport on the first two days, India could have won the game. Sri Lanka escaped a threatening spell by the Indian pacers late in the day. The Indian spinners couldn’t take a single wicket, and India will have gained tons of confidence after they were bogged down in the first innings.

Sri Lanka will look to revisit the drawing board, and try to put in consistent performances in both innings with the bat. Suranga Lakmal was a pleasant performer for them, but Chandimal will want the other bowlers to step up and cause troubles for the Indian batsmen in the second Test. The match will be played in Nagpur, on the 24th of November.



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