Despite decimating India to 74 for 5 wickets that saw Sri Lanka hold the initiative Sri Lanka was frustrated on the second day as well by inclement weather that forced a premature end with play being called off at 2.30 p.m. of the first test match at Eden Gardens, Kolkota. It was hard on the Sri Lankans who were denied of driving home the great advantage of having broken the back of the frontline Indian batting.
In perspective Sri Lanka was in the box seat and rearing to go for the kill having snapped up two more quick wickets courtesy medium paceman Dasun Shanaka’ Gone were Ajinkya Rahane with only 13 runs added to the overnight 17 for 3 making it 30 for 4, and then R. Ashwin as India tottered on 50 for 4. Rahane was foxed by a seaming delivery by Shanaka’s gentle medium pace as the delivery snaked up to take the edge for wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella to do the rest. It took Sri Lanka 7.1 overs to make further inroads.Ashwin was taken 7.4 overs later when Shanaka induced him to lob a catch to Dimuth Karunaratne.
The 24-year old six footer Shanaka, who cut his teeth in the game at St. Peter’s College, Negombo and Maris Stella College, Negombo, had made the ideal dream reentry in to test cricket. More or less a hard gamble by the national selectors who drafted the utility player as a third seamer due to injuries to frontline pacemen, Shanaka in only his second test since debuting against England in 2016, had done just what his captain wanted him to do.
As the Eden Gardens pitch turned to be a bowler’s paradise reportedly by grass growing under the coverings and proved cruel to India, the host team found hope in No.3 batsman Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara sparred successfully the vagaries of the pitch and the threatening Sri Lankan bowlers for a composed unbeaten 47. Pujara progressively grew in stature to stay firm to fight another day. A thorn to Sri lanka in India’s 3-0 test series triumph few months ago, he batted composedly unafraid to step out of the crease and drive. It fetched him five boundaries off Dasun Shanaka on the off side. That was in the 20th over of the Indian innings when Pujara chose to play cat and mouse as he toyed with a Dasun Shanaka a half-volley to dispatch it to the fence.
The Sri Lankan captain switched to Dimuth Karunaratne for an over that proved expensive costing 12 runs which left one wondering why Chandimal did not apply more fire by bringing in his most prized bowler spinner Rangana Herath. Herath in fact has even operated with the new ball and could well have made further inroads given the rick seaming wicket that ideally suited rippers.
With the match going in to the third day on Saturday Sri Lanka must surely keep their fingers crossed that it would enable its bowlers to run through India and that the wicket would ease off the weather permitting. The skipper could well be satisfied that he has the right balance this time around in the batting department to drive home the bowling advantage which hopefully the bowlers would rein tight on for the final push on the third day.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-