IND vs SL: India complete 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka despite Dimuth Karunaratne century

Published on Mar 14, 2022 10:02 PM IST

The sweep against the visitors, after wrapping up the Bengaluru Test inside three days, lifted India to No 4 in the World Test Championship table. Shreyas Iyer was Player-of-the-Match

Indian players greet each other after winning the second Test against Sri Lanka(PTI)
Indian players greet each other after winning the second Test against Sri Lanka(PTI)
By, Bengaluru

Soon after India wrapped up the second Test against Sri Lanka at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Monday evening, the broadcaster started showing highlights of the South Africa tour in December-January.

When the result of a contest is a foregone conclusion—the match ended on the third day like the first Test in Mohali—celebrations can feel hollow. But the action being played on TV was a painful reminder which India needed to put behind them. They went to South Africa as favourites and returned empty-handed. The 2-1 Test series defeat has hurt their chances in the World Test Championship race, pushing them to No 5.

The mismatch of the contest against Sri Lanka apart, India needed a strong performance to slay their demons. At the end of the series, under new captain Rohit Sharma, India can claim to have got things back on track. The 2-0 series sweep helped move ahead of Sri Lanka to No 4 in the WTC Table with 58.33 percentage points. 

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Sharma said India could take a lot of positives from the series—Jasprit Bumrah’s eight-wicket match haul on a dry track laid for the day-night Test, Shreyas Iyer’s half-centuries under pressure in both innings and Rishabh Pant’s glovework on a turner.

Sri Lanka were again left counting the losses after another crushing loss, by 238 runs. Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was the lone bright spot, hitting a fighting century and helping Sri Lanka cross the 200-run mark for the first time in the two Tests. After being bowled out for 109 in the first essay, the visitors scored 208 in the second innings with Karunaratne scoring 107 of them.

Most hurt by India’s debacle in the Rainbow nation would be their strike bowlers Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and R Ashwin as they failed to finish off games. After losing the first Test in Centurion, South Africa won the next two in Johannesburg and Cape Town by chasing down a fourth innings target.

The way Bumrah bowled in this pink-ball Test showed he is back to his best.

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“To come out and bowl like that in these kind of conditions shows how much skill and ability he has. It gives the captain a lot of advantage, to rotate and get the best out of each bowler. He understands the conditions really well,” Sharma said. “In Mohali we saw a different sort of pitch and he was still effective. This pitch was turning and bouncing and everything was happening for spinners. But Bumrah, the kind of skills he has, hit the stumps all the time… Not to forget Shami as well, those two crucial breakthroughs under the lights were brilliant. Both these guys have been brilliant for India. They can reverse the ball, can bounce the batsmen out. They have so many variations as well.”

In SA, India were let down by the middle-order batters. In this series, Hanuma Vihari at No 3 and Shreyas Iyer at 6 replaced Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Iyer was the Player-of-the-Match for his 92 and 67 in Bengaluru. Vihari had set the tone for the series with a fifty in the innings win in Mohali.

Iyer seems to have sealed his spot in the eleven.

“At No 6 in these conditions is never easy, the game is always in the balance. He grabbed that opportunity and made it count. He showed a lot of composure. He understood what he exactly wanted to do on that pitch. He has gone in with a plan and to have that kind of mindset for someone who is just playing his fourth Test shows a lot of maturity, lot of understanding of his game, which is a good sign for us looking forward,” Sharma said. 

Pant’s prowess with the bat stood out again. Against Sri Lanka, his keeping skills were tested on the turning track in Bengaluru against the skiddy pink ball. Monday was a tough day for Pant with Sri Lankan batters showing good resistance against spinners, Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel. Sharma praised him for pulling off two important stumpings in the second innings.

With Karunaratne looking unshakeable, Pant broke the second wicket partnership of 97 runs by stumping Kusal Mendis for 54. He then stumped Niroshan Dickwella to end his 55-run stand with Karunaratne.

“His (Pant’s) batting is his batting. We know how he bats and as a team we just want to give him that freedom. There will be times when you will smash your head and say 'why did he play that shot' but again we need to be ready to accept that with him. The most significant factor of his in this series was his keeping. His keeping was the best I have seen. He kept well when England came last year and he seems to get better every time he keeps wicket for India. And also DRS, he seems to be making the right calls,” said Sharma.

In the final innings, Ashwin was the most successful bowler with a four-wicket haul taking his wicket tally to 442 in 86 Tests. Now he is at a stage where every wicket holds significance. At Mohali in the first Test, he had gone past Kapil Dev on Monday he went past the tally of another pace legend Dale Steyn of South Africa, who finished at 439.

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