‘The Glorious Uncertainties of Cricket’ cannot find a better example of how fluctuating a game could become as in the first Test match between Sri Lanka and India that saw a pendulum swing from a Sri Lankan domination for more than 3 days to a phenomenal Indian comeback to scenting victory on the final day. That Sri Lanka ended the day on 75 for 7 wickets when the umpires called off play due to bad light reflected what a suspense thriller it was with Sri Lanka who had held a giant stranglehold throughout were put by the Indians on a tight rope to hang on for a draw having been set 231 runs to win in just over two and a half hours.
The match was turned on its head by an Indian batting onslaught in accumulating 352 for 8 wickets with skipper Virat Kohli racing to a record 18th test century and his 50th in international cricket in his 348th match, becoming the overall 8th batsman to do so and the second Indian after Sachin Tendulkar whose 100 centuries sets him apart as the record holder at that level for the100 centuries. However, Kohli’s 50 ton mark came 18 outings faster than Tendulkar. Significantly Kohli’s 104 off 119 balls containing 12 boundaries and 2 sixes came at a juncture Sri Lanka’s new ball hero of the first day Suranga Lakmal in the first session of the final day had reignited the ghost of the first day when he decimated India to 3 wickets for 17 for record figures of 3 for 0. Generating 130 kmph Lakmal got rid of K.L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane as India touched 4 for 213.
Sri Lanka’s 231-run victory chase off 40 overs took a disastrous turn when opener Sadeera Samarawickrema perished in the final ball of the first over bowled by Buvaneshwar Kumar for a duck. Samarawickrema paid the penalty of indiscriminate stroke play chasing at a delivery outside the off stump and playing on to his stumps; 1 for 0. Further disaster came when the usually Mr. Reliable Dimuth Karunaratne was out in the third ball of the fourth over by Kumar who bowled him through the gate reducing Sri Lanka to 2 for 2. Both lasted 6 balls each. Next man in Lahiru Thirimanne became Kumar’s third victim four overs later when he was lured by the paceman who switched to round the wicket ambling the ball across as the batsman lunged forward to edge to slips. He lasted 28 balls for 7 and when Angelo Mathews caved in the fifth ball of the 12th over LBW to Yadav for 12 off 23 the total read 4 for 22 and Sri Lanka was staring down the barrel of defeat as India moved in for the kill. Sri Lanka did fight back through a fifth wicket alliance of 47 runs between skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella consuming 11 overs to hold up India. Dickwella in particular chose to attack hammering two 2 boundarires and an equal number of sixes while Chandimal defended stoutly.
But with the total on 69 Chandimal was prised out by Mohammad Sami for 20 off 33 containing 3 boundaries.Things got gloomier with Dickwella to being dismissed without addition to the score. He made 27 off 36 balls and indeed it was a bravo effort in the circumstances as Sri lanka closed on 75 for 7 in 25.2 overs just after the dismissal of Dilruwan Perera, another victim to Kumar for a duck. Soon after the umpires called the match off on the light meter reading.
Buvaneshwar Kumar was adjudged player of the match for match haul of 8 wickets including 4 for 88 and 4 for 8.
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-