172 and 352/8 declared … against 294 and 75/7.
The very score-line gives one an adrenaline rush. The oscillations of incredible fortunes are evident from the variation of the scores. To use a worn overused cliché, the scores capture the glorious uncertainties that make cricket the king of games.
Add to that the fact that for the first time in the history of Indian cricket, a home spinner did not capture a single wicket in a Test match. Not one. Among the 17 that tumbled while the Lankans batted.
Probing deeper we glimpse the bowling analysis of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. 11-8-8-4 in the second innings. As the Sri Lankans battled hard to escape with a draw.
Enormous chunks of time were torn off from the Test because of weather. Yet the drama it produced was phenomenal. With a rear-guard Virat Kohli century to boot, a second innings effort tailor-made to quieten the idiotic chant that goes up every time he fails — even if for an innings.
And all that excitement and drama were produced without there being puffs of dust every time the ball pitched from the very first morning. The ball did not turn square from the eleventh over. It hardly turned much at all. It was a wicket that offered assistance, loads of it, to seamers.
It just underlines that great cricket, superb cricket, is possible on seam-friendly conditions in the subcontinent. It also tells us that while home batsmen may give the indication of struggling in unfamiliar conditions, with time they are quite capable of making a match out of it.
Of course, this wicket was prepared because of India’s forthcoming trip to South Africa. A full dress rehearsal for the fast, seaming wickets in that arduous land. On the stage of a Test match, it was perhaps the best preparation that could be arranged for the side. True, the Sri Lankan pace attack is not a patch on the Protean firepower, but batting against an international side in the most important of formats always helps. It was a management foresight that needs to be lauded.
And in the end, it not only provided the much-needed practice for the Indian batsmen and the likes of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. The Test also proved that ripping contests are possible in the much-maligned sub-continent surfaces even if the pitches are not minefields, even with the conditions tailored to suit seam movement, even with the tilt towards the brisker form of attack rather than the loopy flighted spinning deliveries.
If such contests can indeed be arranged at the top level, it follows as a corollary that Indian batsmen will be better equipped at the phenomenally difficult art of adjustment in alien conditions. They may not hit the ground running, but it will be better than falling with a helpless plonk and sinking without a trace.
Of course, things are not that simple.
No Test ground in South Africa will have minefields for Ravichandran Ashwin to bowl on. Similarly, if Dale Steyn comes sniffing in the Indian backyard, one should not expect green-tops to be handed out to him. Home advantage is a part and parcel of the modern game. One has to be practical in one’s approach as well.
However, with teams like Sri Lanka visiting the shores, to play a Test match in such conditions was a grand experiment and a successful one. While doffing the hats at the organisers and the think tank who came up with this idea, one does look forward to more such off-beat contests in the immediate future.