Rain arrives after India swell lead past 350
India run through top order after amassing 600
Sri Lanka 154 for 5 (Tharanga 64, Mathews 54*, Shami 2-30) trail India 600 (Dhawan 190, Pujara 153, Rahane 57, Pandya 50, Pradeep 6-132) by 446 runs
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Swing, seam, pace and bounce. Dip, drift, turn and bounce. Ingredients that seemed largely absent when India piled on 600, their second-highest total in Sri Lanka, haunted the home side in their reply, as they ended the second day of the Galle Test five down with the follow-on mark still 247 runs away.
Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami took the top order apart, even as Upul Tharanga hurtled along with a profusion of silken off-side boundaries. Then came R Ashwin, going around the wicket to left and right-handers alike, harnessing the sea breeze and testing both edges with drift, swinging arm balls, and the occasional instance of sharp turn. Over the course of an unbroken spell of 18 overs, he gradually discovered the ideal pace and angle of seam to extract the maximum possible help from the Galle pitch, and could have easily ended the day with more than one wicket.
Umesh gave India their first breakthrough, in the second over of Sri Lanka’s innings. Swing did Dimuth Karunaratne in, a full ball curling back into the left-hander from over the wicket and forcing him to play around his front pad. He missed and reviewed Bruce Oxenford’s lbw decision, a wasted referral given there was no inside edge, and that the ball had pitched on middle stump and had straightened down that line.
For a time, Danushka Gunathilaka, making his Test debut, matched Tharanga shot for shot, as the two left-handers drove repeatedly on the up during a second-wicket partnership of 61 at just under five an over. But he played one shot too many, feet rooted to the crease as he flashed at, and edged, a Shami delivery angled across him.
Kusal Mendis, in at No. 4, had the misfortune of getting a Shami special when he was still to get off the mark. It hit the seam in the corridor, seamed away slightly with some extra bounce, and all he could do was nick it. Two times in five balls, Shikhar Dhawan was the catcher at first slip.
The next two wickets fell during Ashwin’s long and endlessly tormenting spell. The first began with his drift and dip beating Tharanga in the air. Having jumped out of his crease and inside-edged into his pad, he turned and hurried back as the ball rolled towards Abhinav Mukund at silly point. Abhinav flicked the ball to the keeper, and when the bails came off, Tharanga’s bat, after a momentary grounding on the dive, had bounced up. A cruel end to an innings of 64 and a 57-run fourth-wicket stand with Mathews.
Then came the wicket of another left-hander, Niroshan Dickwella, who pressed forward but found himself nowhere near the pitch of the ball, thanks to Ashwin’s dip. Extra bounce grabbed the shoulder of his jabbing defensive bat, and Mukund, diving right at silly point, took a superb, low one-hander.
Mathews struggled initially against Ashwin, and on 32 survived an lbw decision reviewed by India when ball-tracking returned an umpire’s call verdict. He slowly grew in assurance, and ended the day batting on 54 with Dilruwan Perera for company. With Asela Gunaratne, who fractured his left thumb on the first day, unlikely to bat, Sri Lanka have quite a task ahead of them.
An improved bowling display from Sri Lanka, led by Nuwan Pradeep, who finished with 6 for 132, threatened at various points to limit India’s total. But the lower order, led by Ashwin and the debutant Hardik Pandya, kept counter-punching.
India lost both their overnight batsmen, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, inside 12 overs of the morning, both out to seam. Away-seam and extra bounce from Nuwan Pradeep found Pujara’s edge on 153, while Rahane, driving away from his body at a rare full ball from Lahiru Kumara, edged to slip.
Despite the selection of Pandya, India stuck with Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha at Nos. 6 and 7, trusting their experience and proven firefighting abilities ahead of the debutant’s promise. Ashwin and Saha had put on three fifty partnerships and one double-century stand, and averaged 47.50 as a pair since the start of 2016. They combined once again to stall Sri Lanka’s momentum, adding 59 for the sixth wicket.
Not for the first time in his career, Ashwin began finding the gaps almost as soon as he walked in, and took three fours from successive Herath overs, twice driving him through the off side and once stepping out to clip him between midwicket and mid-on. In all, he would hit seven fours in a 60-ball 47.
Both fell in the space of six balls, with lunch imminent, and when Pradeep took his sixth wicket after the break, cleaning up Ravindra Jadeja with the bouncer-yorker double, Sri Lanka may have hoped for a quick end to the innings.
As it turned out, India’s last two wickets added 83 in 71 balls in a burst of six-hitting. The quicks leaked runs in an effort to pepper the lower order with the short ball, and Herath kept get hitting back over his head, notably by Mohammed Shami who hit him for three sixes. Pandya hit three sixes too, all off Pradeep, two hooked over backward square leg and one whipped over midwicket.
The dismissal of Shami, caught on the square-leg boundary off Kumara, ended a ninth-wicket stand of 62, but Sri Lanka’s ordeal wasn’t yet over. Umesh Yadav, India’s No. 11, also joined in the hitting spree, taking Kumara for a big six down the ground and Herath for the lofted four that brought up India’s 600.
Pandya, who had brought up his half-century, off 48 balls, in the same Herath over, fell soon after, finding deep square leg while going after another short ball from Kumara.