NEW DELHI: Sri Lanka won the toss for the second time in the series but it was India who tightened the screws on their opposition with a disciplined spell of fast bowling. Umesh Yadav and a returning Ishant Sharma bowled with steam, making the most of conditions ideal for fast bowling as Sri Lanka crawled to reach 47/2 at the lunch interval on the opening day of the second Test in Nagpur.
While Sri Lanka went ahead with an unchanged team, India rang in three changes – all forced. Mohammed Shami sat out with a hip niggle, making room for Ishant. Murali Vijay was the automatic choice as Shikhar Dhawan’s replacement, while Virat Kohli decided to give Rohit Sharma a go-ahead for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, which meant that India went ahead with four bowlers, two of whom had no wickets to show in Kolkata.
On a surface that wasn’t as threatening as assumed and one that promised to assist the quicks before the spinners took control in the second innings, credit must be given to Sri Lankan batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne to not let their guard down for the most part. Ishant in particular peppered Karunaratne with a barrage of short-pitched bowling, but the left-hander was ready to fend, jump and glide the ball down to third man. In spite of not looking pretty, Karunaratne managed two crisply-timed boundaries off the two Indian fast bowlers.
Sri Lanka had gone 16 innings without notching a 50-plus opening stand against India in Tests, and the trend continued at the VCA Stadium when Ishant had Sadeera Samarawickrama out caught behind. The batsman opened his account with a handsome cover-drive that had everything right about it. However, the same shot resulted in his dismissal, this time the ball moving slightly away and kissing the outside edge of Samarawickrama’s bat for Cheteshwar Pujara to take a nicely-judged catch at first slip.
Sri Lanka’s overcautious approach meant that their innings was more of a crawl than actual progress. Thirimanne took 12 deliveries before he opened his account and managed nine off 58 deliveries, while 10 off Karunaratne’s 21 runs came in the first half hour of the session. With the scoreboard not ticking along, Thirimanne succumbed to the pressure, sweeping R Ashwin from outside off and missing it altogether for the first wicket by a spinner this series.
Pujara was not to be left out of action. He connected a direct-hit but the batsman was in by a frame. Later, Pujara could have made things even worse for Sri Lanka had Pujara held on to a chance at mid-on of Karunaratne. Ashwin’s wicket prompted Kohli to introduce Ravindra Jadeja from the other end, and the move almost paid off when India confidently appealed for a stumping. The replay however showed that Jadeja had overstepped, and Thirimanne was given a life, even though his left toe was outside the crease.