Pitch Crum­bling, So Are Sri Lanka Dou­ble De­light

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games -

a day that had an air of in­evitabil­ity about it.

As In­dia piled on the runs, Sri Lanka’s spin­ners toiled out in the mid­dle while Nuwan Pradeep nursed mus­cle stiff­ness in the cool shade of the dress­ing-room. The go­ing was dif­fi­cult for the spin­ners, all of them us­ing their fin­gers rather than wrist. While Ran­gana Herath was the main threat, nei­ther Malinda Push­paku­mara nor Dil­ruwan Per­era put enough ac­tion on the ball, and as a re­sult could not ex­tract the same bite that In­dia’s spin­ners man­aged. Once t he r u ns were on t he b o a r d , Mo­ham­mad Shami came off the long run and un­leashed a bouncer first up, loos­en­ing his back and test­ing the bounce on the surface. When he re­verted to stock de­liv­er­ies, Shami got a cou­ple of balls to skid through and stay low, and Jadeja did not need to be told by his cap­tain to start warm­ing up.

It was Ash­win who struck first, how­ever, a piece of luck al­low­ing him to by­pass his usual habit of send­ing down at least 10 overs be­fore get­ting his first break­through. Flick­ing hard, Upul Tha­ranga, a man with a unique tal­ent of find­ing the most un­usual ways to get out, picked out KL Rahul un­der the hel­met. The ball was well struck, but Rahul’s six-pack, so far largely cos­metic, came in handy as the ball popped off his midriff for him to catch.

With the first break­through coming early, Ash­win was all over the bats­men. Dimuth Karunaratne was ef­fi­cient when the ball was pitched up, punch­ing Shami and Ash­win back down the ground for boundaries, but could have been dis­missed sev­eral times by the off­spin­ner. Get­ting lovely drift and dip, Ash­win got the ball to turn sharply and Karunaratne did his best to brush off the num­ber of times he played and missed, but his was a dis­missal fore­told. One reg­u­la­tion off break turned a bit less than the bats­man ex­pected and the even more reg­u­la­tion edge went straight to hand at first slip.

Di­nesh Chandi­mal, on the eve of the Test match had ex­plained just how his team planned to counter In­dia’s spin­ners. “We’ve been do­ing all the tough work in prac­tice, pre­par­ing for turn­ing pitches,” said Chandi­mal. “We’ve been play­ing re­verse sweeps and sweeps.” Hav­ing made his in­ten­tions clear in ad­vance, Chandi­mal showed his hand early on go­ing hard at Ash­win with the sweep shot.

On the day, the move paid off as Chandi­mal ASH­WIN QUICK­EST TO COM­PLETE 2000 RUNS AND 250 WICK­ETS IN TESTS

Ravichan­dran Ash­win

Richard Hadlee —AFP

Ash­win re­duces Sri Lanka to 50 for 2 af­ter In­dia de­clare at 622 for 9

struck one sweet slog-sweep for six and Kusal Mendis fol­lowed his cap­tain’s lead to pick off three boundaries. But, with a moun­tain of run­son­the­board,In­di­aw­illonly­be­toohappy that Sri Lanka are em­ploy­ing this tac­tic. “It’s high risk, play­ing the sweep on this pitch be­cause bounce is quite vari­able,” said Ra­hane. “Some balls are bounc­ing, few are keep­ing low. To­mor­row the key will be bowl­ing in the right ar­eas for long pe­ri­ods of time.”

Like a vine that grows on a sapling, creep­ing slowly up and un­no­tice­ably tight­en­ing its grip, In­dia’s spin­ners will choke this Sri Lankan bat­ting line-up. What looked like a hard pitch, and felt like a tiled floor two days be­fore the game, is now crum­bling, and you can es­cape the feel­ing that so are Sri Lanka’s hopes of coming out in front in this game and keep­ing the se­ries alive.

R Ash­win cel­e­brates a wicket with team­mates

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