Pitch Crumbling, So Are Sri Lanka Double Delight
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
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