Sri Lanka fightback after Dhawan century on Day 1
12 Aug 2017, 22:50
Pallekele: Starting as overwhelming underdogs, Sri Lanka would have at least hoped for the toss of the coin going their way at the start of the third and the final Test match between India and Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele on Saturday, reports Times of India.
However, the struggling Islanders had little luck as for the third time, Indian skipper Virat Kohli called it right and without an iota of doubt, opted to bat first.
India went on to score 329 runs on the opening day, but the glimmer of hope for Sri Lanka was the performance of spinners Malinda Pushpakumara (3/40) and Lakshan Sandakan (2/84), who claimed five of the six Indian wickets between them to fall on the day.
While Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul provided a good platform with 188-run stand for the opening wicket, the hosts ensured that India didn't run away with the early advantage, putting in two solid sessions thereafter.
Sri Lanka did start well, with pacer Lahiru Kumara hitting Rahul's pad that had the Sri Lankans interested as early as the second over and his new-ball partner Vishwa Fernando, replacing Nuwan Pradeep, inducing an edge off Dhawan that landed in front of the slip cordon.
However, that was all SL came close to removing Dhawan in the opening session as the Delhi opener hit eight fours en route to his fourth Test fifty that came at a strike-rate of 115. Rahul, at the other end, in his usual methodical way got his eye in before taking two boundaries of one Kumara over. The 20-year-old pacer, lost his radar and banged the ball in short and was put away easily. His first spell read 4-1-35-0.
Fernando, just one Test old, fared a tad better, but did not exhibit anything that could have troubled the Indian duo. Dinesh Chandimal, the Sri Lankan captain soon turned to his seam bowling part-timer Dimuth Karunaratne. His probing cutters kept the batsmen on their toes and he even had Rahul playing a false shot when the batsman went for a loft over midwicket, but Kumara failed to react on time and dropped the chance. Rahul was on 28.
Spinner Dilruwan Perera was pressed in to action, but to no avail as Rahul and Dhawan scored at five runs per over and took India past the 100-run mark inside the first 20 overs. Rahul got to his ninth Test fifty soon after.
More than the lacklustre bowling, it was the fielding that let the hosts down. The Indian openers were given the luxury of easy singles and they were not at all rushed while converting the available singles into twos. Ten minutes before lunch, chinaman bowler Sandakan, Sri Lanka's third change for this Test, rolled his arm over for eight runs in his two overs - with no sight of their lead spinner Pushpakumara in the first session.
But when he came on to bowl in the 40th over of the match, 12 after the second session started; Pushpakumara made an immediate impact getting rid of Rahul. He also accounted for Dhawan in the session and combined well with Sandakan to curtail India's run-flow.
Rahul was Pushpakumara's first victim, as similar to the reprieve he had got in the first session, the opener came down the track - a bit too much - to a flighted delivery and mistimed the shot to a diving Karunartne at mid-on to depart for 85. Dhawan though looked in ominous touch and got nine more boundaries after scoring his fifty en route to his sixth Test century, and second of the series, with a sweetly-timed drive towards the boundary rope.
Pushpakumara and Sandakan stuck to their lines and with the wrist-spinner extracting appreciable turn off the turf, Sri Lanka were in with a chance. The odd loose delivery did come about and Dhawan didn't fail to capitalise. But, in a bid to sweep Pushpakumara towards the square leg boundary, Dhawan played the ball uppishly and Chandimal plucked one out of the thin air at square leg to spur on the Lankans. Dhawan's innings came to an end at 119 off 122 deliveries.
The continued pressure sustained by the left-arm orthodox and the left-arm unorthodox yielded positive results as Pujara was undone by a slider from Sandakan. The one-down batsman went for a cut gauging the line of the delivery but the revs on the ball meant the ball skidded through after pitching and Pujara was cramped for room and edged it to first slip Angelo Mathews. Pujara departed for eight.
Kohli had trouble early on, reading Sandakan, and Rahane too seem to be bogged down. Rahane charged down to Pushpakumara but lack of turn meant Rahane's intention of playing on to the onside went kaput and he was castled.