Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Pallekele, Sri Lanka - The sec­ond day of the third Test be­gan with Sri Lanka in its most promis­ing po­si­tion of the se­ries. It ended with it a long way down the for­est path to­wards an­other mas­sive de­feat, with hardly a sliver of sun­light to be seen.

Hardik Pandya slipped the blind­fold on it, with a bril­liantly paced maiden Test hun­dred (108) that stretched In­dia's first-in­nings to­tal to 487; Mo­hammed Shami's new-ball spell (2-17) ap­plied the ma­chete jab to its back­bone, and Sri Lanka it­self walked the rest of the way, a num­ber of its bats­men throw­ing away their wick­ets as it slid to 135 all out in only 37.4 overs.

Hav­ing se­cured a 352-run lead, Vi­rat Kohli en­forced the fol­low-on for the sec­ond time in suc­ces­sive Tests. It left enough time for In­dia to bowl a fur­ther 13 overs, enough time to take one more wicket, Upul Tha­ranga chop­ping Umesh Ya­dav onto his stumps. At stumps, Sri Lanka was 19 for one, need­ing a fur­ther 333 to make In­dia bat again.

Sri Lanka's first-in­nings largesse al­lowed Kuldeep Ya­dav to set­tle into a men­ac­ing rhythm and pick up his sec­ond four-wicket haul (4-40) in only his sec­ond Test. He had be­gun ex­pen­sively as he found him­self in the mid­dle of a coun­ter­at­tack­ing fifth-wicket stand of 63 be­tween Di­nesh Chandi­mal (48) and Niroshan Dick­wella (29). But Dick­wella, tak­ing one risk too many, slogged down the wrong line of a wrong'un af­ter jump­ing out of his crease, pre­cip­i­tat­ing a slide that cost Sri Lanka its last six wick­ets for 34.

It was Shami who set Sri Lanka's bat­ting hor­rors in mo­tion. He had both Tha­ranga (5) and Dimuth Karunaratne (4) nick be­hind. The pres­sure played some part in the mix-up

that cost Sri Lanka its third wicket, and two pieces of ex­cel­lent field­ing from R Ash­win at mid-on and Kuldeep at ex­tra-cover sent back Kusal Mendis (18). Four balls later, Sri Lanka was 38 for four, An­gelo Mathews lbw to Pandya, pinned on the crease.

In the first two Tests, Pandya had largely been used in a sup­port­ing role. On Sun­day, he had come on as first change. This may have had some­thing to do with the in­nings he had played.

It was an in­nings of two dis­tinct halves. Pandya had just reached his half-cen­tury when In­dia lost its ninth wicket, some ten min­utes be­fore the sched­uled lunch break. The in­ter­val was duly pushed back by half an hour, and Pandya went on to dom­i­nate a tenth-wicket stand of 66, rac­ing from 50 off 61 balls to 108 off 96, with the No 11 Umesh Ya­dav scor­ing three off 14 in that time.

By the time he was the last man out for 108, in the first over af­ter lunch, Pandya had be­come the sec­ond In­dian bats­man in the se­ries to score a cen­tury in a ses­sion, af­ter Shikhar Dhawan on the first day of the first Test. He was out third ball af­ter re­sump­tion, slic­ing a Lak­shan San­dakan goo­gly to the cover bound­ary. San­dakan fin­ished with fig­ures of five for 132, his first five-wicket haul, com­ing in his sixth Test match.

Sri Lanka had be­gun the sec­ond day with the verve and men­ace as Vishwa Fer­nando had Wrid­dhi­man Saha caught at gully in its sec­ond over to leave In­dia 339 for seven.

Kuldeep put his head down and ground out 26 off 73 balls to help add 62 for the eighth wicket with Pandya.

San­dakan struck twice in three overs, find­ing Kuldeep's edge, and then tak­ing a sharp re­turn catch when Shami drove him hard and straight.

By this time, Malinda Push­paku­mara had bowled four overs in the morn­ing, and his fig­ures read 22-2-56-3. Over the course of his next five balls, Pandya went on to man­gle those fig­ures, tak­ing 26 runs off them with the clean­est strik­ing imag­in­able (4,4, 6, 6, 6), all of it ex­e­cuted with the stillest of heads and the smoothest of bat-swings. Pandya then hit Lahiru Ku­mara for six, premed- itat­ing by tak­ing guard on off stump and hit­ting clean and hard to take him into the 90s.

An­other six in the next over, over mid­wicket off San­dakan, took him to 97, and the cen­tury came up with a straight drive off Ku­mara. He had be­come the fifth In­dian to score his maiden first-class hun­dred in a Test match, af­ter Vi­jay Man­jrekar, Kapil Dev, Ajay Ra­tra and Harb­ha­jan Singh.

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