Record-breaking India go 1-0 up

The Indian team continue to tick all three boxes when they step on the cricket field. Their batting, bowling and fielding have been absolutely outstanding and has proved extremely challenging for their opposition. Sri Lanka came into this game after losing the plot on day 5 in the first Test, only to put up one of their worst performances and give Team India a 1-0 lead in the Test series.

The first Test turned out to be a cracking one, not many expected the tourists to give a fight, but they were in the game until the last day of the match. India took psychological points towards the end and came into this Test on a high. Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat first on this occasion and the skipper Dinesh Chandimal mentioned they are going with the same playing XI. India, on the other hand had to make a few changes – Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had opted out due to personal reasons whereas Mohammed Shami was out with a side niggle. Murali Vijay, Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma were included in the line-up and it was a balanced side. All three of the made a solid mark with their performances in the match.

The Lankans didn’t really get off to a good start. Samarawickrama was out early to Ishant Sharma when he attempted to drive a fuller length ball, only to edge it to Pujara at first slip. Team India soon started to chip in with wickets at regular intervals. The spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja came to the party and kept a lid on the scoring rate. The visitors were under pressure and in an attempt to break free, they played poor shots and eventually lost their wickets. Dimuth Karunaratne looked solid but his stay at the crease came to an end when Ishant Sharma angled across a delivery to the southpaw and Dimuth got stuck in his crease to play his shot. He was rapped on the pads and was given out LBW. He took a review, but replays showed it was umpire’s call and he had to walk back to the dressing room. During his innings, he became the second batsman in 2017 to complete 1000 Test runs.

Sri Lanka kept losing wickets but Dinesh Chandimal was fighting it out. Ravichandran Ashwin used his skills and took the big wicket of the Lankan skipper. Chandimal attempted a reverse sweep which he missed completely and got hit on the pads and the umpire gave him the marching orders. He took a review as well, but replays confirmed three reds, and he had to take the long way back. The skipper also completed 3000 runs in Test cricket. Sri Lanka faltered totally and were bowled out for just 205. Apart from Karunaratne and Chandimal, no one had the stomach to put up a fight. It was a commendable effort by the Indian bowlers after losing the toss. Ashwin grabbed four wickets while Jadeja and Ishant got three wickets each and India had to negotiate the tricky little period of 9 overs with the bat.

Lahiru Gamage gave the early breakthrough for the Lankans when KL Rahul chopped one back onto his stumps. Rahul paid the price of playing away from the body and India lost one wicket by stumps on day 1. Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay, one of the best partners in this format stitched together a sensational partnership. The duo looked in no trouble and took their time to tire the Lankan bowlers. Both got to their centuries and were all set for big scores. The Lankan bowlers lacked venom and didn’t cause any major trouble to the batsmen. Pujara became the fastest to score 3000 Test runs in India. The Indian batsmen made the second day of the Test, a batting paradise. Runs were flowing off their bat at a decent rate and the Lankans failed to keep a lid on the run-flow.

Vijay was given a life by Dilruwan Perera at silly mid on when he dropped a catch on 61. Vijay went on to make his 10th Test century in his comeback game and gave a headache to the selectors for the opening slot. Cheteshwar Pujara, the man in form breezed through another century, scoring his 14th Test ton and added 209 runs for the second wicket with Vijay, to become the most prolific partnership for India in Tests in terms of average (minimum 20 innings). Rangana Herath, one of the best spinners of the modern game doesn’t have a good record against Team India, but got the breakthrough finally for the visitors. Vijay attempted a sweep shot off a full toss which went straight to the short fine leg fielder. Ajinkya Rahane’s dip in form continued as he was out for another cheap score and later on, Pujara was dismissed off a yorker by Shanaka. But there was another big partnership between Virat Kohli and the comeback man, Rohit Sharma. The Indian skipper scored his 19th Test ton, his 10th international century in this year itself, a record by any captain and was all set to score another double ton. He looked at complete ease and was scoring at a superb rate. He found an able partner in Rohit Sharma, whom he loves batting with and the duo were dealing in boundaries. Things were turning from bad to worse for the Lankans as India were piling runs.

Virat Kohli entered the record books yet again as he smashed his 5th double century, joint-most by a captain in Test cricket. The Indian skipper wanted to score runs quickly, in a bid to declare the innings and put the Lankans to bat with a lead of nearly 400 runs. He was out eventually playing a big shot, when he ended up dragging one to long on. His marathon 213-run knock came to an end but there was something special still left in that Indian innings. Rohit Sharma, who was making his comeback in whites was at his best and went on to his make third Test century with ease. He looked totally ruthless and punished the Lankan bowlers for every bad delivery. Kohli and Rohit added 173 runs between them and it also came at a really quick rate. Once Rohit completed his century, Kohli declared the innings with a 405-run lead.

Sri Lanka had a mountain to climb in their second innings, first to wipe off the deficit but that was more than a fair distance away. Samarawickrama misjudged a delivery and offered no shot, only to see his stumps being disturbed off Ishant Sharma’s bowling. Sri Lanka didn’t lose any further wickets on day 3 and had to start afresh on day 4 again. Ravindra Jadeja struck early when he sent Karunaratne back. It was a sharp catch by Vijay at short leg and it was just the beginning. Wickets kept falling and there was no batsman who showed any fight or application. The Indian bowlers were on top and the Lankans collapsed completely. They clicked as a unit and Sri Lanka were in dire straits. The visitors opted to go for quick runs, but kept losing wickets.

Dinesh Chandimal fought like a lone warrior and brought up his second fifty of the match. He wanted his team to think about beating India, but he seemed to be the only batsman who had taken it to heart. Twin fifties in a match but his team was still nowhere close enough to give India a showdown, leave alone beating them. The lunch break was extended as India were two wickets away, but Sri Lanka managed to take the game into the second session.

Suranga Lakmal and Dinesh Chandmal added a 50-plus stand for the 9th wicket but it didn’t last long enough to stop the Indian team from attaining the lead. Umesh Yadav got the wicket of the Lankan skipper and Ravichandran Ashwin picked the final wicket of the match, which also saw him entering the record books. He became the fastest to 300 Test wickets, just in his 54th Test match and India completed their joint-biggest victory in Tests (innings and 239 runs). It was an all-round show by the hosts who were simply too good for the Lankans.

The third and final Test will be played in Delhi from Saturday onwards. The visitors looked clueless and have plenty of issues to look into in an attempt to draw the series. Leading into the series, the Lankan camp was quite upbeat after they performed well in the UAE, and were hoping to give the Indians a challenge. It isn’t too late though, as they will look to sharpen their strategies and come out blazing in the third Test in Delhi.



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