KOLKATA: Six overs, six maidens and three wickets. Suranga Lakmal was breathing fire on a green Eden Gardens pitch on Day 1 of the first Test here. If India wanted a challenge ahead of their South Africa tour, the 30-year-old provided some and more!
The first day’s play was a 71-ball affair with only an hour of play possible due to rain. The toss was delayed by four hours and then Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal called it correctly, opting to bowl first.
Lakmal provided one of the most memorable spells of bowling witnessed at the iconic venue. India were left tottering at 17/3 when bad light stopped play.
KL Rahul, coming in on the back of seven straight half-centuries, got the perfect delivery to start the match. It was a ripper that kissed the edge of Rahul’s bat and settled nicely in the hands of the wicketkeeper. This was Rahul’s second Test duck.
With the overcast sky helping seam movement, Shikhar Dhawan (8) followed soon after. It was Lakmal again— an inside edge crashing on to the stumps after Dhawan tried an ambitious drive. Out came Virat Kohli and his stay lasted 11 deliveries before Lakmal caught the India captain plumb in front. Even the DRS couldn’t help the skipper.
“It is one of the finest spells of fast bowling I have seen in a long time,” said Rumesh Ratnayake, Sri Lanka’s bowling coach. “Not just from a Sri Lankan perspective but as a whole. Yes, the conditions did help but it is up to you to make maximum use of it.”
That was something his fellow new-ball bowler Lahiru Gamage could not do. He was either too short or too wide. “Before the first interruption, he was all over the place but after the break, he came back stronger. I’m sure he will find his rhythm tomorrow,” Ratnayake said.
From India’s point of view, what was seen as a foregone conclusion after their recent 9-0 thrashing of the same opposition in their own backyard, has turned a lot more complicated. And assistant coach Sanjay Bangar credited Lakmal’s efforts.
“You can’t really fault our batsmen for their shot selection. The stop-start nature of the day’s contest did not help matters as the batsmen couldn’t get into a rhythm. We couldn’t get a passage of play where you get 15-20 overs at a stretch. However, there are no excuses and credit to Lakmal for putting the ball in the right areas.” With the threat of rain still looming, India will have to grind it out on Friday.