Two 67s, from Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid, following Wasim Jaffer’s 48, were deemed enough practice with the bat as India declared at tea on the second day, 28 short of Sri Lanka A’s 266.
The morning was overcast but the sun shone through by the lunch break, warming and cheering the crowd, mostly of Indian descent, who contributed to another carnival, fun day at Grace Road.
Dravid was in masterful form, coming in with the sun just before lunch and dominating the stand with Gambhir, which ended when Gambhir opted to retire to let MS Dhoni get some batting. Gambhir’s exit was termed ‘retired out’, but his sacrifice did not prove fruitful --- the second ball he faced, Dhoni played across the line, missed and heard his stumps crash.
Including two Tests here, and excluding the series against Bangladesh, Dravid has not made a 50 in five Tests. He looked keen from the moment he came in, exhibiting powerful drives on both sides of the wicket.
VVS Laxman seemed to be in a good touch but fell when he tried to clear mid-off and failed. That let in Yuvraj Singh, who cheered the restive, noisy crowd with three big hits before the declaration.
Earlier, Jaffer had reached 48 and was looking good for many more when he tried to go over the man at mid-on to complete his 50 --- he failed and Akalanka Ganegama held on to a straightforward catch. That was just award for left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who had beaten the opener with balls that drifted in before spinning away outside off.
Gambhir, dropped early in the morning in the third slip off Dammika Prasad, got to his 50 with a single to long on and raised his arms in joy, which was understandable: the Delhi star was below his best on the day, edges off the bat failed to carry and two confident LBW appeals against him were turned down.
Ishant Sharma, sharing the new ball with Ranadeb Bose, got a wicket off the first ball he bowled, forcing Mahela Udawatte to edge a rising ball to Laxman at third slip.
Sharma and Bose troubled the batsmen with balls that kicked up outside off --- but that was it. Michael Vandort and Dilruwan Perera settled down to enjoy a good afternoon's work. The field was up, the pitch was a dream and the two started spanking the bowling.
Both raced to their 50s and but Vandort got there first as shadows lengthened and the run rate rose.