Kung Fu Pandya Hardik hits blis­ter­ing maiden ton be­fore Kuldeep takes four to make Sri Lanka fol­low on for se­cond con­sec­u­tive Test

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Anand Vasu,

Hardik Pandya can barely re­mem­ber when he last scored a cen­tury at any level. You can’t blame him, for in 19 first class matches, 38 List A 50-over matches and 85 T20 matches be­tween Bar­oda, In­dia A and Mum­bai In­di­ans, Pandya had never scored a cen­tury in any form of cricket that is of­fi­cially recorded as be­ing some­where close to the highest level.

Yet, he clouted Sri Lanka’s at­tack all over the Pallekele In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium for 108. But, be­fore going into rap­ture over the man­ner in which he dis­man­tled the bowl­ing at­tack as In­dia posted 487 and shot out Sri Lanka for only 135 to en­force the fol­low on, it’s worth spend­ing a minute on all the records Pandya broke.

Pandya’s cen­tury was the joint fastest by an In­dian at No. 8. He is the first In­dian to score a cen­tury be­fore lunch in a Test. The 26 he took off left-arm spin­ner Malinda Push­paku­mara, is the most an In­dian has scored in a sin­gle over in Tests. Pandya hit seven sixes in the course of the in­nings, some­thing no In­dian bats­man has ever man­aged in an over­seas Test.

Last, but cer­tainly not least, Pandya be­came the fifthIn­dian to reg­is­ter his maiden first class cen­tury in a Test match. The four that pre­ceded Pandya were Vi­jay Man­jrekar, Ajay Ra­tra, Harb­ha­janSing­hand,wait­forit,KapilDev.The com­par­isons to the great­est In­dian all-rounder are­ex­ces­sive­lypre­ma­ture­for­some­onewho­has playedonlythree­Test­matches,buti­na­coun­try that wor­ships in­di­vid­u­als over team achieve­ments, they are in­evitable.

Al­ready, MSK Prasad, the chair­man of the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee, has let this par­tic­u­lar cat out of the bag. “If he stays grounded I am sure we will see him be­ing com­pared to the leg­endary KapilDevinthetimesto­come,”saidPrasad­soon after Pandya’s hun­dred. For­tu­nately for In­dia, Pandyaisn’tget­tingswep­tupinthe­hy­pe­justyet. “If I am even 10% the crick­eter Kapil Dev was, I would’ve done very well,” said the all-rounder at the end of the se­cond day’s play.

When Pandya walked out to bat, In­dia were 322 for 6, and this soon be­came 339 for 7 when Wrid­dhi­man Saha was dis­missed. Pandya had just four runs to his name. The man who has made a name for him­self by wield­ing his bat like a bat­tle axe, showed re­mark­able re­straint, reach­ing 50 off 61 balls. On many other days that many de­liv­er­ies would have been enough to con­sume three Pandya in­nings.

But this was not any other day. The last man walked out to the crease with Pandya on 50, and al­though Umesh Yadav has a Ranji Tro­phy cen­tury to his credit, Pandya re­alised the time had come to un­leash the in­ner beast that he had done so well to keep in check. The man who felt the brunt was Push­paku­mara: 4,4,6,6,6. Hit­ting as cleanly as any­one has done in the game, Pandya re­peat­edly sent the ball sail­ing over the bowler’s head.

Di­nesh Chandi­mal, Sri Lanka’s cap­tain, had not merely run out of ideas, he seemed to have lostthe­abil­i­ty­to­thinkatall.Nine­men­wereon the fence and only the bowler and keeper were in the same pin code as the bats­man.

Chandi­mal will ar­gue that the tactic even­tu­ally worked, but by then Pandya had 108, the last-wicket part­ner­ship was 66 (of which Umesh con­trib­uted 3) and In­dia had gone well past the 400 tar­get they had set them­selves. Pandya’s se­cond fifty came off only 25 balls, and it did not take as many de­liv­er­ies for Sri Lanka to gift their first wicket. Upu l T h a r a n g a , a n d t h e n Di mut h Karunaratne failed to counter the an­gle Mo­ham­mad Shami cre­ated from around the stumps, nick­ing off, and this be­gan a pro­ces­sion from dress­ing-room to the mid­dle and back that was more brisk than the famed Esala Per­a­hera fes­ti­val that Kandy is so fa­mous for.

Chandi­mal lasted 87 balls for 48, but no other bats­man would even last 35 balls and Sri Lanka were shot out for 135 in just 37.4 overs.

Fol­low on en­forced, In­dia got one step closer to the 3-0 sweep, Tha­ranga get­ting him­self out for the se­cond time in the day, drag­ging the ball back onto his stumps. Only two days of the Test had been played, and al­ready Sri Lanka were all but out of the game, need­ing 333 more to just make In­dia bat again.

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