Barring a couple of sessions after enforcing follow-on, India's domination against Sri Lanka continued in the 2nd Test at Colombo. In the process, Virat Kohli's men registered their first innings win in the Island nation. They have now won eight Test series on the trot.
The triumphant run began in the Island nation in 2015 after India roared back in the second and third Tests, following a shock loss at Galle, to clinch the 3-match series 2-1. Post that, the Indian cricket team have emerged victorious against South Africa, Windies, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh, Australia and Dinesh Chandimal-led Sri Lanka.
What has been impressive throughout this run is the fact that different players have contributed to the team's cause. When the team was plagued with injuries, replacement players — Parthiv Patel, Gautam Gambhir, Jayant Yadav to name a couple — have stepped up. Even at the Sinhalese Sports Club, there were different match-winners in each innings.
The prolific pair of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane starred on Day 1, while Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja ensured that the visitors get past the 600-run mark. Tormentor-in-chief Ravichandran Ashwin scalped his 26th five-wicket haul in hosts' first innings and in their second essay Jadeja dismissed five Sri Lankan batsmen. All in all, it was a complete and clinical performance.
Here are the five turning points of the second Test between India and Sri Lanka:
Rahane, Pujara pull India out of trouble
The hosts might have felt that they have held all the cards when KL Rahul and Virat Kohli were sent back to the hut in a span of 9 overs. With the score reading 133/3, the visitors were in a brittle if not a precarious position. However, India's first drop Pujara and No 5 batsman Rahane combined to put together a spectacle of counter-attacking cricket. They stepped out with will — which was a conscious plan as explained by India's vice-captain Rahane — and disrupted the lengths of the Sri Lankan bowlers. The outcome was a 217-run stand which came at a run rate of 4. It basically snatched away whatever little control Sri Lanka had managed to gain after Kohli's wicket.
Determined Ashwin, resolute Saha and sword wielding Jadeja
India ended Day 1 on 344/3. By lunch on the following day, they had lost both Rahane and Pujara and once again the Lions had an opening to skittle out the opposition under 500. But India's lower middle-order maintained their composure. Wriddhiman Saha and Ashwin showed patience and resilience and slammed fifties. On the other hand, Jadeja played his natural game and smashed three sixes and four boundaries in his 85-ball 70-run knock. These knocks helped India go from 413/5 and provided Kohli the liberty to declare at 622/9.
Nuwan Pradeep breaks down
Chandimal's decision to field three spinners, itself, was slightly puzzling because their game plan relied heavily on the toss factor. Had they won it, the trio of Rangana Herath, Malinda Pushpakumara and Dilruwan Perera could trouble the Indian batsmen on the Day 2, Day 3 tracks. But to their dismay, the coin fell in Kohli's favour and Herath had to bowl the second over of the SSC Test. Their situation worsened late on Day 1. Four balls after taking the second new ball, Pradeep — Sri Lanka's lone pacer — broke down and walked off the field. Dimuth Karunaratne did utilise the new cherry to some extent; he trapped Pujara LBW. But other than that, Chandimal had no one to go to when his spinners couldn't provide the breakthroughs. Herath, Pushpakumara and Dilruwan had to share the extra workload and bowled 42, 38.2 and 40 overs respectively. Understandably, the Indian batsmen cashed in on their misery.
Sri Lanka commit harakiri
Sri Lanka were in a hurry. They had a bus to catch, a function to attend. They had something planned on the morning of Day 3. On a pitch that was assisting spinners, the hosts decided to commit all the mistakes they could within two hours. The need of the hour was grit, but Sri Lanka displayed timidity. When they should have defended, they attacked... and collapsed. Niroshan Dickwella top scored for them in the second innings with 51 runs and his wicket perfectly encapsulated his side's innings. He shuffled across to scoop Mohammed Shami, failed to connect it cleanly and saw his furniture get rearranged. Teams rarely make comebacks after losing eight wickets in a session and Sri Lanka had put themselves in a terrible position after being bundled out for 183.
Hardik strikes out of nowhere
India were still in the driver's seat but Kusal Mendis and Karunaratne had stitched together a sensational partnership. Sri Lanka probably had realised that batting against the old ball was slightly easier than the new ball. So they gave themselves time to settle. Mendis kept sweeping the world's best spinners, while Karunaratne allowed his partner to express himself. Kohli and Co needed a wicket and Pandya, who was introduced into the attack after one innings and 46 overs, finally broke the frustrating stand.
A few times before the dismissal, Pandya was trying to bowl a off break. On one of those occasions, the ball slipped out of his hands, he overstepped and gifted a friendly full toss to Mendis, who drove it through to the covers fence. Three balls after that delivery, the Baroda all-rounder accomplished what he wanted. He invited Mendis on the front foot and the batsman inside edged it towards Saha, who dived to complete a terrific catch. The 191-run stand, Mendis' lovely innings and Sri Lanka's final few hopes had come to an end.