After a cracker of a game at Eden Gardens, expectations were high surrounding the Nagpur Test. Promise of grass on the pitch, teams saying they are excited to play on it, there were a good few thousands in the stands when play started on a bright and sunny Friday morning.
They had reason to be reasonably happy as Sri Lanka limped to 47/2 from 27 overs at lunch. Other than some accurate but not-so-threatening bowling, the visiting batsmen appeared content to put bat on ball rather than looking for runs. It made sense from the point of view of a struggling team up against the No 1 side in Test cricket. For those who came to watch, it might have been boring, had Ravichandran Ashwin not struck towards the end of the first session.
Handicapped in the absence of Mohammed Shami, India went in with four specialist bowlers in a departure from what they had been trying out. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav occasionally tested the batsmen outside off, but by and large they couldn’t extract much from a surface looking good for batting. That’s how their skipper Dinesh Chandimal was expecting it to play, when he said the pitch would be good for batting the first two days. He had no hesitation in electing to bat.
Importantly from India’s perspective, the bowlers did not concede easy runs despite being unable to strike more than once in the first hour. It was a full delivery from Ishant that Sadeera Samarawickrama slashed at, for Cheteshwar Pujara to complete a fine, diving catch at first slip. Ironically, it was Pujara who gave Dimuth Karunaratne a reprieve when he dropped a catchable one at mid-off. Ashwin was the unfortunate bowler, who was back smiling when Lahiru Thirimanne got bowled trying to sweep.