In alien conditions in Kolkata, Sri Lanka did show promising signs with the bat as well as with the ball in the first innings. To be precise, they bowled India out for 172 and gained a healthy lead in the first innings also Many were stunned with this occasional spark of brilliance from Sri Lanka as none expected them to put up such an emphatic show.
But it was just about time when India bounced back into game and almost pulled off an implausible win in the second innings. Sri Lanka somehow managed to save the Test by a whisker and did show promising signs in the first innings. With the first Test ending in a draw, there was obviously slight pressure on India to win the Nagpur Test and take a lead in the three-match series.
Suranga Lakmal stood out with the ball while there were handy contributions with the bat from Rangana Herath, Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne. However, India came out all guns blazing in the second innings and did well to outplay Sri Lanka in all the three departments.
India dished out a green, bouncy surface keeping in mind the upcoming South Africa tour. But something similar was not witnessed at Nagpur for the crucial second encounter. Sri Lanka had a lot of positives to take from the previous encounter, which would have certainly infused confidence and pushed them for better. But it wasn’t to be.
Sri Lanka registered their 100th Test defeat at Nagpur and not just that it was also a record defeat. They lost the game by an innings and 239 runs, which is also their worst Test defeat to date. India outclassed them comprehensively in all the three departments and there was absolutely no competition between them. They lost wickets in heap, all 20 wickets in 128.4 overs, to be precise. Their bowlers didn’t have a good run, picking six wickets in 176.1 overs. The numbers suggest, how India dominated the game right from the outset.
Sri Lanka didn’t make good use of the batting conditions and played the Indian attack poorly. One should not forget, India were without Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who opted out of the Nagpur Test due to personal reasons. And Mohammed Shami missed out due to a hip niggle. This opened the gates for Ishant Sharma in the playing XI and India opted to go with four specialist bowlers for the second Test. The pace attack was relatively weaker than the previous one.
With the conditions being conducive for spin bowling, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were always going to be a threat. But Sri Lanka did play poorly. In the first innings, they were bowled out for just 205 runs, where the conditions were good enough to get big runs. Barring Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, none of the Sri Lankan batsmen crossed the 50-run mark. Chandimal and Karunaratne too floundered after emphatic starts and needed to convert the fifties into centuries.
Sri Lanka didn't even cross Virat Kohli's score in the 2nd innings. #INDvSL
— Nikhil 🏏 (@CricCrazyNIKS) November 27, 2017
To win a Test match, it is pivotal for a side to get daddy hundreds, which was not seen by any Sri Lankan batsmen throughout the match. With the ball, Sri Lanka did manage an early wicket, but nothing of substance after that. Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara stitched a mammoth stand and didn’t let Sri Lanka bounce back into the game. Virat Kohli played at a good strike-rate and achieved his double ton at a brisk rate.
The fact that there were three centurions and a double centurion from the Indian line-up, itself speaks about the kind of dominance they had over Sri Lankan bowlers. Just like their batting, the bowling was too not up to the mark. Although there were occasional sparks of brilliance, but it demanded consistency, which was not seen.
Sri Lanka had a mountain to climb in the second innings, but the fact that Indian batsmen got runs at will was a testament to the batting-friendly conditions. Once again, Sri Lankan batting floundered like nine pins. Skipper Chandimal was the only shining light in Sri Lanka’s armour as they were bowled out for just 166, further handing India their joint-highest Test win.
Sri Lanka’s coach Nic Pothas believes that matches against a top side like India will help them identify the right characters. He was quoted by ESPNCricinfo saying, “I still firmly believe, if we can play a team like India in such a short space of time, twice, in six Test matches, the guys with the right characters – which I keep talking about and I keep asking for – will get better into the future. As long as the curve is on a general upward trend, then you’re always going to be, when you look down the line, that person’s going to get better. Like in any environment, when things get tough and the pressure goes up, some people fall off the bus, some people get better. That’s natural everywhere.”
India have now gained an unassailable lead of 1-0 and the final encounter will the final opportunity for Sri Lanka to come out hard and square the series.