India vs Sri Lanka: Ravichandran Ashwin turns the screws on hapless hosts
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India vs Sri Lanka: Ravichandran Ashwin turns the screws on hapless hosts

India’s lower order, led by Ravichandran Ashwin, made hay on a good pitch and against a tiring Sri Lanka bowling attack to eye victory in the Test series and leave the hosts facing another big defeat.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 04, 2017 18:14 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Colombo
India vs Sri Lanka,Sri Lanka vs India,Indian cricket team
Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin (R) starred on Day 2 of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo on Friday.(AFP)

It took just six balls in the Sri Lankan innings to see the contrast in fortunes of the two teams. On a dry surface prepared to check the Indian batsmen, Rangana Herath and Co toiled without much reward for two days in the second Test at the Singhalese Sports Club ground. (IND v SL highlights | Live streaming)

Employing Sri Lanka’s tactics, India also opened their bowling with a spinner, skipper Virat Kohli asking R Ashwin to share the new ball with Mohammed Shami. And the off-spinner got a wicket in his first over – dismissing Upul Tharanga for nought -- to reduce Sri Lanka to zero for one in reply to India’s 622 for nine declared. (Scorecard)

Ashwin added one more wicket to his tally, taking out Sri Lanka’s top-scorer in the first Test, opener Dimuth Karunaratne (25), to leave them tottering at 50 for two at close. It was the start the home team would have dreaded about after being made to field for two days in oppressive humidity under the Colombo sun.

Pujara falls early

Sri Lanka did well to achieve their main target of getting India’s overnight pair, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, early. But their challenge for the day had only begun. R Ashwin (54), Wriddhiman Saha (67) and Ravindra Jadeja (70no) all struck half-centuries to dent the opposition’s chances.

The day anyway had started on a demoralising note for Sri Lanka when their only pacer in the team, Nuwan Pradeep, failed to join the team on the field due to a left hamstring injury.

They couldn’t believe their luck when part-time pacer Dimuth Karunaratne got Pujara’s wicket for the addition of just five runs to the overnight tally, ending the 217-run fourth wicket partnership. Then, debutant left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara produced a sharply turning delivery to have Rahane stumped for his maiden Test wicket.

Lower order rules

But the joy was shortlived. All the Indian lower-order batsmen made sizeable contributions to make it another long day in the field. Before Jadeja came in and smashed the ball around, Ashwin helped himself to a smooth half-century to complete 2000 runs in Tests, and Saha helped take the total past 600 for the second straight Test.

India’s No 10 Mohammed Shami rubbed it in by smashing a four and two sixes, adding 30 quick runs for the ninth wicket with Jadeja.

It was widely expected that India would declare at 600. But captain Virat Kohli allowed his last wicket pair to stay a few overs longer, and he was proved right as his bowlers still had enough time to snatch two early wickets.

Flagging spirits

Keeping the spirits up was a challenge for the home team. In an attempt to avoid throwing in the towel early, as most Sri Lankan players did in the opening Test, they were trying to cheer each other up for every little effort, running to each other and exchanging high fives regularly.

But with every run they knew the series was slipping away. The wicket had started to turn, but there was no reward for Rangana Herath and Co. If anything it would have only created doubts in their batsmen’s minds. And when their turn came later in the evening, it showed in their tentative play.

First Published: Aug 04, 2017 12:33 IST