KOLKATA: The first Test between India and Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens has, to a significant extent, been all about a glimpse into what the next 15 months hold for Virat Kohli’s men as they get ready to embark on challenging overseas tours.
Green pitches, overcast conditions and probing seam bowling making things uncomfortable for batsmen — these are some of the things that the numero uno Test side will have to counter if they are to return with pride intact. The quality that will be tested most is their ability to put up a fight, especially when the chips are down.
Earlier this year, India showed that in abundance against Australia in Bengaluru, where bowlers brought the team back following a dismal batting effort which has mirrored this particular contest. Twice this year now have India got all out for less than 200 batting first in a Test — 189 in Bengaluru and here. Like they did then, India must bare that part of their game here, the ability and zeal to turn things around. Runs can be scored on this pitch, which is likely to get better for batting if the rain stays away. It’s a golden chance for Kohli’s men to show they are good at salvaging lost situations.
With the sun shining bright on Day 3, the pitch offered less assistance to pacers and with a low score to defend, India’s new ball bowlers tried to attack the stumps instead of bowling a slightly wider line. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar was bang on in his opening spell, the returning Mohammed Shami was erratic, to say the least. “The weather was much better today. There was less cloud cover and the track was not as helpful as on the previous two days. But tomorrow is a new day and hopefully, we can make some early inroads,” Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s top-scorer with 52, said.
When Shami found rhythm in the final session, edges streaked through the slip cordon. Shikhar Dhawan at first slip shelled a simple chance, with Lahiru Thirimanne on 25, off Umesh Yadav. Conditions cannot be faulted for such lapses and the team seemed low on intensity, compared to Bengaluru. “Edges flying past and catches dropped can be frustrating, but these are the challenges of Test cricket. You need to embrace it and fight it out,” Pujara added.
The way things stand, forcing a win is impossible at the moment. Early fading light is an added problem. The hosts need to prove mettle and mount a strong comeback and not allow Sri Lanka to take the upper hand going ahead. This venue had seen a memorable comeback against Australia in 2001 and the crowd set to gather on Sunday will hope to see the same fighting spirit.
“We are ready for any challenge, on any wicket, in any condition. We have to put our best foot forward. The first session will be important tomorrow,” Pujara added.
While most of the pre-series talk centred around India’s tour of South Africa, they need to rescue this Test first. Sri Lanka, with such a display, are proving to be more than just a sparring partner.
India 1st innings (overnight 74/5) Pujara b Gamage 52, Saha c Mathews b Perera 29, Jadeja lbw Perera 22, Bhuvneshwar c Dickwella b Lakmal 13, Shami c Shanaka b Gamage 24, Umesh no 6. Extras (lb4, b6) 10. Total (all out, 59.3 overs) 172. FoW: 5-50, 6-79, 7-127, 8-128, 9-146, 10-172. Bowling: Lakmal 19-12-26-4, Gamage 17.3-5-59-2, Shanaka 12-4-36-2, Karunaratne 2-0-17-0, Herath 2-0-5-0, Perera 7-1-19-2. Sri Lanka 1st innings: Samarawickrama c Saha b Bhuvneshwar 23, Karunaratne lbw Bhuvneshwar 8, L Thirimanne c Kohli b Umesh 51, A Mathews c Rahul b Umesh 52, Chandimal no 13, Dickwella no 14. Extras (lb4) 4. Total (4 wickets, 45.4 overs) 165. FoW: 1-29, 2-34, 3-133, 4-138. Bowling: Bhuvneshwar 14.4-2-49-2, Shami 13.5-5-53-0, Umesh 13-1-50-2, Ashwin 4-0-9-0, Kohli 0.1-0-0-0.