Test Match 1 – Day 3: Abhinav, Kohli power India 498 in front against Sri Lanka


July 28, 2017

Brief Scorecard: India 600 and 189 for 3 (Abhinav 81, Kohli 76*) lead Sri Lanka 291 (Perera 92*, Mathews 83, Jadeja 3-67, Shami 2-45) by 498 runs


July 28, 2017

Brief Scorecard: India 600 and 189 for 3 (Abhinav 81, Kohli 76*) lead Sri Lanka 291 (Perera 92*, Mathews 83, Jadeja 3-67, Shami 2-45) by 498 runs


GALLE, SRI LANKA – The only way India might have enforced the follow-on – and even then not necessarily so – was if they had winkled out the Sri Lankan tail early on the third morning, with very little effort from their bowlers. But once Sri Lanka kept them on the park till after lunch at the Galle International Stadium on Friday (July 28), it was clear as crystal that there would be no invitation to Rangana Herath’s men to immediately bat a second time in a bid to try and save the first Test.

There were sound reasons for Virat Kohli not to stick Sri Lanka right back in even though India’s lead was an impressive 309. The bowlers needed a break, having sent down 78.3 overs spread over two days in bowling Sri Lanka out for 291. Angelo Mathews first, and then Dilruwan Perera, had shown that there still were no demons in the pitch, and that scoring freely wasn’t out of the question. And, whatever significant wear and tear might be expected wouldn’t eventuate until deep into the fourth day.

It was against this backdrop that India set out to build on their significant advantage and exorcise the ghosts of 2015, when they could not translate a 192-run first-innings lead into victory. Determined to shut out all escape routes for the home side, India finished the moving day of the Test on 189 for 3, an overall lead of 498, after losing Abhinav Mukund to what turned out to be the last ball of a long day. Not even a 106-minute stoppage owing to rain hampered their progress as India scored at 4.06 per over without hitting a stroke in anger.

Abhinav had a second good day in succession by making his first Test half-century in more than six years on his way to his highest Test score before being trapped in front by Danushka Gunathilaka. Kohli shed a rare lean trot by cruising to his first half-century in eight innings and moved within sight of a century, after which perhaps the fireworks will arrive on day four. It is unlikely that Sri Lanka will enjoy that spectacle.

Trailing by a mountain and a man short following the unfortunate injury to Asela Gunaratne, Sri Lanka’s best chance of prolonging the inevitable once they had fallen so far behind in the first innings lay in making India work hard for their runs. Shikhar Dhawan, however, had other ideas, taking off from where he left on day one by quickly hitting his stride with a flurry of boundaries.

Herath had started proceedings with Nuwan Pradeep, the first-innings hero, and the offspin of Perera – fresh off his unbeaten 92 – to counter the two left-hand batsmen, but he wouldn’t have expected a short, wide delivery from Perera to effect the breakthrough. Dhawan, his eyes lighting up, was committed to the stroke and therefore was sucked into it even though the ball turned a little, his cut landing unerringly in point’s hands.

Cheteshwar Pujara quickly got on top of Pradeep while Abhinav looked unhurried and unflustered, probably deriving confidence from his fielding heroics of the previous day. As the clouds moved in menacingly from the south-west and both batsmen seemed on course to weather the impending storm, Pujara fell into an obvious trap sprung by Herath. Lahiru Kumara had been bowling full on Pujara’s pads with a man stationed at leg-gully. Pujara picked off what he thought was a juicy offering, only for Kusal Mendis to hold on to an excellent catch on the second attempt, both first-innings centurions having been gobbled up cheaply.Pujara was just about dragging himself off when the heavens opened up, forcing the players to scurry off the park and the groundstaff to scurry on with their assortment of covers in tow. A serious downpour that only lasted slightly more than five minutes was followed by a few short bursts that stopped play for nearly two hours but once back, Kohli quickly showed Sri Lanka who the boss was.

The Indian captain had had an underwhelming series against Australia – only 46 runs from five hits – and had fallen to a short Pradeep ball on the pull in the first innings here. Kumara, though, greeted with him a friendly full-toss first up on resumption that Kohli put away to long-off, then cover-drove Herath for a second four in his first four deliveries. Abhinav, not falling into the trap of trying to match Kohli and instead playing at his own pace, chugged along as India tightened the screws, forcing the already defensive-minded Lankans to resort to run-denying tactics. As the clouds dissipated, the sun beat down harshly once again and the shadows lengthened, so did the faces of the Sri Lankans.

It was the Indians who sported long faces in the morning when Mathews and Perera built aggressively on their precarious overnight 154 for 5. Perera tore into Ravindra Jadeja, opening his big shoulders and hitting the ball long and hard as he was to for the rest of the morning. Mathews looked a lot more in control than the previous evening, punishing anything remotely loose so that Kohli was driven to use his four frontline bowlers inside the first nine overs of the morning.

The hour mark was just beckoning when Mathews made room to drive Jadeja over cover, but got too close to the ball and therefore couldn’t find the elevation required to clear short extra-cover. Herath, the current skipper, followed the former captain back to the hut when he was caught at slip off glove and forearm on the reverse-sweep, and Sri Lanka were looking at an early end to the innings.

But Perera didn’t share that sentiment. Successfully having a leg before decision off Jadeja overturned on 38, he alternated between powerful fours and effortless sixes. Only 28 off 65 when Mathews was dismissed, Perera smashed 64 off his last 67 deliveries to close in on a maiden Test century.

Pradeep kept him solid company during a ninth-wicket stand of 39 before becoming Hardik Pandya’s first Test victim. Not called on to bowl until the 72nd over, Pandya took only 11 deliveries to get off the mark with a sharp incoming delivery that beat the batsman all ends up and disturbed timber. Last man Kumara hung on grimly for a quarter of an hour, but in the second over after lunch, Jadeja curled one past his outside edge and pegged off-stump back.

It left Perera high and dry for a second Test score in excess of 90 – he had made 95 on debut against Pakistan in Sharjah three-and-a-half years back. A hundred would only have been minor consolation then, given the rocky road that lay head. By the time stumps were drawn, the rocks had become mountains, the road nowhere in sight.

Courtesy/Source: Wisden India