India approached the Galle Test with trepidation. The last time they had been here, in 2015 under skipper Virat Kohli, they had suffered a humiliating defeat after being bowled out for a mere 112 runs in the second essay.
Galle was an acknowledged Sri Lankan bastion. Rangana Herath and other spinners had spun the team to many a victory here. The Lankans took pride in stating that they knew how to bowl and bat on this surface and hence they held the upper-hand.
But Kohli upset all their plans by winning the toss and opting to bat first. That was the key as it meant Sri Lanka, rather than India, would bat last on the fourth and fifth days.
Additionally, Shikhar Dhawan, making a comeback, batted brilliantly and took the fight to the home team bowlers. His outstanding strokeplay knocked the wind out of the Lankan sails. He took a liking to the spinners even as he carved up the pacemen. The 190 he cracked in double-quick time, along with Cheteshwar Pujara’s big 153 set the tempo for the rest of the match.
Sri Lanka can trace their woes to the efforts of pacemen Nuwan Pradeep and Lahiru Kumara, who sprayed the new ball around. Kumara, in particular, looked awful while bowling to left-handers. He bowled so wide of the off-stump that Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund were hardly troubled. His deliveries were far more suitable to test right-hand batsmen, especially as they jagged into them. Herath wisely decided not to open the bowling with him in the second essay and instead opted for the off-spin of Kushal Perera.
Had the Lankan new ball bowlers been spot on in the opening overs of the Test, India might have been challenged. That was not to be. Mukund, who kept poking at wide deliveries, finally snicked one to the ’keeper. But Dhawan and Pujara made merry on a good track and against ineffective bowling. Pradeep, in fact, was the more productive of the bowlers. The others were far too ordinary to test this Indian line-up on Galle’s first day pitch. An opening day score of 399 for three tells its own tale.
Even the usually parsimonious Herath was clobbered at will. He and the other spinners had to come on to bowl far too early on a pitch that was a batsman’s ally. Lankan fielding too looked shoddy under pressure.
India batted on with the intention of shutting out Lanka. Debutant Hardik Pandya made his mark with a quickfire 50 in a gargantuan total of 600.
India’s opening bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav struck telling blows as the hosts, in their reply, lost three top batsmen within 15 overs. It was pleasing to watch Shami getting into his groove. His time at the batting crease, during his knock of 30, had warmed him up pretty well. He struck rhythm almost instantly while bowling and got the ball to dart off the seam.
Umesh too sent down his outswingers at a lively pace. His pace and improved consistency with the ball now put him a notch higher than Ishant Sharma, who was stood down for this Test. Umesh did not disappoint.
The spinners, although they were among the wickets, need to work out their bowling strategy on Lankan pitches. Wickets are not necessarily consumed in slips, gully and short-leg areas. On Sri Lanka’s slow turners, unlike the vicious turners available back home in India, it would be more prudent to try and snare the batsmen on uppish drives.
Ashwin and Jadeja, so used to bowling on Indian turners, must adapt to local conditions. The manner in which Ashwin got Dimuth Karunaratne (97) bowled while attempting to slog sweep indicated that he had got a hang of bowling slower and at the ideal length.
India did not enforce follow-on, preferring not to bowl the pacers and spinners to the ground so early in the series. It proved to be a wise move.
It enabled Mukund to get some invaluable runs in the second essay. Importantly, skipper and master batsman Kohli rediscovered his mojo with an excellent unbeaten century.
India thus got everything they came for: Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Mukund, Ajinkya Rahane and debutant Pandya got amongst the runs; Shami worked up some good pace and rhythm while Jadeja (six wickets) and Ashwin (four wickets) found success. To boot, the team buried the ghosts of Galle and Herath with an impressive 304-run win.
Howzzat for starters!
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Updated Date: Jul 30, 2017 13:23:13 IST