Recent Match Report – India vs Sri Lanka 1st Test 2021/22

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Allrounder slams 175* to set up declaration, and then joins the wicket-takers’ party to push Sri Lanka on the back foot

Sri Lanka 108 for 4 (Ashwin 2-21) trail India 574 for 8 dec (Jadeja 175*, Pant 96, Ashwin 61, Vihari 58, Lakmal 2-90, Fernando 2-135, Embuldeniya 2-188) by 466 runs

India’s bowlers brought all their quality to bear on a pitch just beginning to offer turn and variable bounce to bag a fifth of the wickets they need to win the Mohali Test, after Ravindra Jadeja made an unbeaten 175, the highest score by an Indian No. 7, to help them post a formidable first-innings total.
Jadeja and R Ashwin would make a serious impact with the ball in the final session of the day, picking up three of the four Sri Lankan wickets to fall. Well before that, though, they put on a smooth, untroubled century stand to snuff out any hope Sri Lanka may have had when day two began with India 357 for 6. Jadeja then added an unbroken 103 with Mohammed Shami for the ninth wicket, their runs coming at more than a run a ball against a flagging attack and a ragged pack of fielders, before India declared.

Rohit Sharma called his batters in with Jadeja 25 runs from a double-hundred; while he didn’t get a chance to add that feat to his two first-class triples, the timing of the declaration gave India a full, extended session to bowl at Sri Lanka. They squeezed 43 overs of pace, spin and testing gameplans into that time, and at stumps, Sri Lanka were four down and a massive 466 runs adrift of India’s first-innings total.

India used four bowlers within the first 10 overs, throwing almost all their weapons at Sri Lanka’s openers and testing the surface for everything it could potentially offer when the ball was still new and hard. The breakthrough finally arrived in the 19th over, in a most familiar manner.

Lahiru Thirimanne had faced 36 pressure-packed balls from Ashwin to Dimuth Karunaratne’s six, and he had been kept constantly on guard by the offspinner’s changes of pace and trajectory. He had already been beaten a couple of times on the outside edge, but ball 37 turned less than Thirimanne expected as he pressed forward to defend, and slid past his inside edge to have him lbw.

Jadeja, the last of India’s five bowlers to be introduced, replaced Ashwin after a 10-over spell, and immediately had Karunaratne in strife with sharp turn from the rough outside the left-hander’s off stump. Having had an lbw appeal turned down off his first ball, Jadeja had one upheld off his second, with the ball ripping in to beat the inside edge as Karunaratne shuffled nervously across his stumps.

Karunaratne had looked fluent through most of his innings, timing the ball crisply off his pads when given the opportunity, and using his feet well against the spinners. But there wasn’t a lot he could have done about the wicket ball. Angelo Mathews’ stay at the crease was similar; he hit a four and a six when Jadeja overpitched, and moved to 22 before Jasprit Bumrah squared him up and hit his back pad with a ball that defied the pitch to straighten sharply off the seam. Given out on a 50-50 lbw call, a review returned umpire’s call verdicts on both impact and where the ball was projected to hit the stumps.

Bumrah could have had another wicket in his previous over, when he sneaked a brilliantly disguised slower off-cutter through Pathum Nissanka’s attempted drive, but the third umpire had caught him overstepping. Even apart from those two deliveries, this spell from Bumrah was breathtaking, combining pace, pinpoint short balls, and a hint of reverse-swing when he went full.

Ashwin returned late in the day for one last spell, and he struck immediately, though on this occasion it was an indiscretion from the batter that led to his downfall, Dhananjaya de Silva becoming the fourth man out lbw in the innings while attempting a risky sweep off the line of the stumps.

Ashwin had figures of 13-6-21-2 at stumps, a terrific finish to a day he had begun with an innings that harked back to his early years in Test cricket, full of effortless drives through the off side and the V. Sri Lanka set defensive fields right from the start of the day, with sweepers on both boundaries, but he still scored his 61 runs at a strike rate of 74.39.

Jadeja receded into the background for most of his partnership with Ashwin, but after the latter’s dismissal – which was immediately followed by that of Jayant Yadav, the only India batter to not get into double figures – he switched gears effortlessly. Having been on 105 off 173 balls at the time of Jayant’s dismissal, Jadeja clattered 70 runs off his next 54 balls. Having kept it hidden all through the first half of his innings, he brought out the lofted drive, and hit three straight sixes off Lasith Embuldeniya and de Silva.

Over recent years, Jadeja has lifted both his white-ball hitting and his Test-match crease occupation to new heights, while largely keeping the two sides of his batting personality strictly compartmentalised. Here was one occasion when he could let one bleed into the other.

Shami, usually happy to slog at everything, blocked stubbornly at his end, and contributed no runs to the first 50 runs of his partnership with Jadeja. Sri Lanka’s bowling and fielding wilted after this point, and at one point Vishwa Fernando fumbled the ball and let Shami escape when both batters were stranded at the same end. That image summed up Sri Lanka’s position in this Test match.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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