The opening day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka, that is underway at Galle, belonged majorly to the visitors; courtesy of Shikhar Dhawan’s 190 and Cheteshwara Pujara who was still at the crease on 144 at stumps. Amidst an Indian-dominant day, there was a Sri Lankan cricketer who managed to make his presence felt in the Galle International Stadium on Wednesday. While India piled up 399 runs on Day one, they lost three wickets and all the scalps were picked by the pacer, Nuwan Pradeep. The fast bowler, who has returned from a hamstring niggle, certainly justified his spot in the side. He came in as replacement for Dusmantha Chamera and that move was a surprise as Chameera was considered as one of the promising pacers in Sri Lanka.
Pradeep, who last played a Test during Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa 2016-17, missed the one-off Test against Zimbabwe at home earlier this month. However, Sri Lanka picked him as they were hopeful of the pacer recovering before the India series kicked off. In the 18 overs Pradeep bowled on Wednesday, not that he was absolutely flawless with his line and lengths but out of the three wickets he took, two deliveries were genuinely wicket-taking balls and he thoroughly deserves the credit for that.
Pradeep proved to be too good for the Indian opener, Abhinav Mukund, who was under immense pressure to score runs and aim at becoming a regular face in the Indian Test squad. In the eighth over of the opening day’s morning, Pradeep angled at the corner of the off-stump and a good length bowl found a healthy edge from Mukund’s bat that easily landed into the gloves of Niroshan Dickwella behind the wickets. That dismissal partially crushed Mukund’s future in Test cricket but it did wonders for Sri Lanka, who are expected to lose to India in the Test series.
— cricBC (@cricBC) July 26, 2017
If that was a great start from Pradeep, his next wicket was an absolute beauty. And the wicket being Indian skipper Virat Kohli;s wicket made the dismissal only sweeter for the Sri Lankans. Pradeep unleashed a bouncer that landed as high as Kohli’s chest and in reply, Kohli tried to shuffle it off and unfortunately nicked it to the keeper. Dickwella jumped and collected the ball over his head. He was more than sure that there was an edge but the on-field umpire thought Kohli had escaped. Sri Lankan Captain Rangana Herath immediately asked for a review. The replays clearly showed that there was a deflection and that gave Pradeep his second wicket. It was top-class delivery, moreover, a clever one considering Kohli’s woes against the short ball, from Pradeep that took Kohli down and with that the Indian captain’s misery in Tests continued. He has not scored a single fifty in his last six innings.
Basically, whenever there was a slight chance for a danger from a player, Pradeep stepped up. Shikhar Dhawan, who had missed India’s last 11 Tests, clearly grabbed the opportunity. He not only relived memories of his knock of 187 on Test debut but ensured his comeback would be remembered for a very long time now. However, Dhawan’s near flawless innings came to an end just an over before tea. He surely could not be blamed for throwing away his wicket when he went down the track and toe-ended a straight ball into the hands of a fielder at the mid-off because he had played brave innings all through the day. Sadly, that one shot failed and he walked back with 190 off 168 balls written on the scoreboard. Although this dismissal belonged to Dhawan’s mistake more than Pradeep’s good bowling. However, that still counted. Had Dhawan been until the end, 600+ total surely was expected on the cards for India.
The job is still undone for Sri Lanka and Pradeep. There is still Cheteshwara Pujara at the crease, who also is capable of scoring big in the Tests. In order to restrict India under 500 on Day two, it will depend a lot on how Pradeep performs.