Prior to the start of the Test series, not many gave visitors any chance of putting up a fight. They were obliterated by the same side a few weeks back on their home soil and this series was expected to be no different. But Sri Lanka have put the star-studded Indian side under the pressure at the end of Day 1. When the surface at Eden Gardens was revealed it left many bewildered and surprised including Sri Lankan coach Rumesh Ratnayake. When the visiting side won the toss, Virat Kohli knew the kind of challenge his side had to overcome at Eden Gardens.
Sri Lankan coach in the post-match conference said, “Certainly a good toss to win. Hope it might last about one and half days or more. I would think it would last for two days at least. The surface is grassy. It is in recent times a surprise.”
First and foremost, incessant rains played the spoilsport. It was that kind of a day that when a play looked possible, a slight drizzle would intervene. After a long wait and tremendous efforts by the groundsmen, the match eventually got underway in the second session. The conditions were ideal for swing bowling; grassy pitch and overcast conditions. Also, the pitch had been under the cover for more than a day. India would have loved to unleash their fast bowlers on such a sporting wicket, but toss is never in one’s hand.
Four slips, two gullies and three wickets to Suranga Lakmal..wow, what a pitch! 😃😃😃 #INDvSL
— Hemant (@hemantbuch) November 16, 2017
If truth be told, Suranga Lakmal is not the kind of a bowler, who could threaten a top side like India. But conditions at Eden Gardens were alien to both the sides and had massive help for the bowlers. Sri Lankan bowlers just had to keep things pretty simple and Lakmal was certainly banging on target. Although there was assistance, but it needed to be exploited.
He is not in the world class bowler group, but the way Suranga Lakmal has bowled in the last 12 months is the level I thought he would have arrived at about 4 years ago. (Injuries considered)Nice skill set.
— ian bishop (@irbishi) November 16, 2017
KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan took guard while Lakmal had the shiny red cherry in hand. After such a delayed start and a weather that makes you lazy, it is very difficult for a bowler to hit the right mark on the very first ball. On most of the occasions or with many bowlers, they might need time to get into rhythm and fire unplayable deliveries, but this wasn’t the scenario with Lakmal. He produced a fantastic first delivery to Rahul, which pitched on off-stump and moved away from the right-hander. He had to play at it and eventually ended up getting an outside edge straight to the wicketkeeper.
— Daniel Alexander (@daniel86cricket) November 16, 2017
Lakmal drew the first blood on the very first delivery and put India on the back foot right from the outset. He continued to build the pressure and didn’t let the momentum drift away. There was an opportunity and he cashed in. Shikhar Dhawan didn’t look troubled, but Lakmal kept the attacking southpaw under the radar. While batting on 8, Dhawan dragged one good length delivery on to the stumps while attempting a drive off Lakmal.
— ICC (@ICC) November 16, 2017
Lakmal didn’t stop there, he kept the Indian batsmen under check with relentless pace and immaculate line, length. Indian skipper Virat Kohli was trapped leg before by the lanky bowler and broke the spine of Indian batting line-up with his third wicket of the day. He indeed produced one of the best Test spells by a Sri Lankan bowler, picking three wickets without leaking a single run. It’s a record spell as he finished the Day with 6-6-0-3, which is mind-boggling.
Lahiru Gamage bowled well in patches, but didn’t manage to have the kind of impact Lakmal had. “It was a matter of getting his rhythm right and the timing was more important. As much as you need timing in batting, in bowling also you need timing and don’t want to rush through so the chances of hitting the right place become more,” Ratnayake added.
Rumesh Ratnayake was impressed with Lakmal’s outing and said, “We had nothing to lose when we came here so our boys were ready for the challenge. It was one of the finest I’ve seen for a long time. The wicket was receptive and very helpful. We knew that it would seam but the job is not finished, it only started.”
Stumps is called with only 11.5 overs of play possible on Day 1 in Kolkata, 0/3 off 6 overs from Suranga Lakmal giving Sri Lanka the best of the day. India 17/3 at the close of play #INDvSL pic.twitter.com/1BoDHu9w52
— ICC (@ICC) November 16, 2017
Sri Lanka are under pressure, but the way they have played so far (in the warm-up game and this Test) only speaks about their confidence. Lakmal has infused life in what was predicted to be a dull series by many. The road is still long for Sri Lanka and this is just a solid start, but one can expect Lakmal to weave magic on Day 2 as well, as the conditions are expected to be more or less the same in Eden Gardens.
At times, one player can lift the morale of the whole side with his excellence. Lakmal has certainly done that. It is not very often that a team like India are sailing in troubled waters at 17 for 3. Although the surface was conducive for seamers, but Lakmal did well to exploit it.