Shikhar Dhawan (94) and KL Rahul (73*) restored India’s dominance with the fifties as the hosts erased a 122-run lead to nose ahead in the opening Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday. Taking advantage of the improved conditions, Dhawan and Rahul put on a 166-run partnership which put India ahead by 49 runs at the end of the fourth day’s play. Earlier, Sri Lanka was bowled out for 294.
Brief scores: India 171/1 (Shikhar Dhawan 94, KL Rahul 73*, C Pujara 2; Shanaka 1-29) & 172/10 (C Pujara 52, Suranga Lakmal 4-26) lead Sri Lanka 294/10 (Rangna Herath 67, Angelo Mathews 52, Lahiru Thirimanne 51; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-88, M Shami 4-100, Umesh Yadav 2-79) by 49 runs.
DAY 1, THURSDAY:
Sri Lanka pacer Suranga Lakmal breathed fire on a green track to rock India on the rain-hit Day 1 of their first Test encounter at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. He was the star for Sri Lanka as he took three wickets without conceding a single run. The pacer took the important wickets of both the openers – KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan – and Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli to hand Sri Lanka the advantage of a rain-cursed day. The visitors won the toss and opted to bowl after a delayed start and only 11.5 overs of play could take place. The hosts were reeling on 17/3 when bad light and drizzle forced stumps. Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten on eight while Ajinkya Rahane had been yet to open his account.
DAY 2, FRIDAY:
The heavens opened once more on Friday to initially force an early lunch and then wash out the final two sessions with India reeling on 74 for five. When play was called off, Pujara, a model of concentration, stood three runs short of a 16th Test fifty, a knock he would be proud of considering the conditions at Eden Gardens. The visitors continued to plunder wickets between the showers in search of a first Test win against their hosts in India. Sri Lanka’s first change bowler Dasun Shanaka dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin, both for four, to compound India’s woes after the hosts had resumed on 17-3 under an overcast sky on Day 2.
DAY 3, SATURDAY:
On the first chance of a full day’s play, Sri Lanka appeared on their way to a position of strength after bowling out India for 172, but late strikes from Umesh Yadav caught the visitors off-guard. Yet, half-centuries from Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews put them on course to a position of strength, as they ended Day 3 trailing by just seven runs with six wickets in hand.
The trail of India’s Wickets falls continued on the second day of the match but with a handy fifty of Pujara and the partnership of Saha-Jadeja and Umesh-Shami, the hosts managed to put a total of 172 runs on the board. The Sri Lanka pacers were stunning as they took 8 out of 10 wickets and cramped India’s batting order.
Sri Lanka’s response to India’s 172 began in the post-Lunch session with a stamp of authority from Sadeera Samarawickrama. Both of India’s bowlers got the ball to swing and seam appreciably early on. Karunaratne got struck on the pads off a sharp inswinger from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Samarawickrama, who was looking dangerous ended up gifting his wicket off a short of length ball that moved away from him and was caught to Wriddhiman Saha.
But Bhuvneshwar’s early jerk cannot make an impact as the third-wicket partnership began to build. The former captain Mathews and Thirimane build a solid partnership of 99 runs which led Sri Lanka to look on course to at least go past the first hurdle of the game – India’s total. The play was called off a little early due to bad light. At the time of the stumps, Sri Lanka score was 165 with Chandimal and Dickwella unbeatean at 13 and 14 respectively.
A session-and-a-half of ebullient batting from India neutralized the advantage that a late Rangana Herath cameo gave Sri Lanka, as hosts finished Day 4 on 171 for 1, pushing their lead to 49 runs on the fourth day of the rain-hit opening Test in Kolkata on Sunday. Openers KL Rahul (73*) and Shikhar Dhawan (94) started strongly after the hosts conceded a 122-run first innings lead following Sri Lanka’s 294.
Sri Lanka managed to consolidate their position with a sizeable lead in a topsy-turvy morning session on Day four of the Kolkata Test. Rangana Herath turned out to be Sri Lanka’s unlikely savior, coming out after his side lost three wickets in 10 balls and cracking a chance 67 to help push Sri Lanka’s lead to 122. On a pitch where most batsmen failed, it was the free-swinging, chancy knock from Rangana Herath that made the biggest difference.
If the rain stays away for the last day and light permits, this game still has at least 90 overs worth of cricket left in it. And for India to push for a victory, the batsmen will need to act upon India’s expectations – run through Sri Lanka’s bowling order quickly and increase the lead.