NAGPUR: A commanding batting performance put India firmly in the driving seat in the second Test against Sri Lanka. At stumps on Day 2 at the VCA Stadium, the home team was 312/2 with plenty of batting to come. And although this is a game that can change complexion in a matter of a session, they were looking good to reach a total that will put Sri Lanka under pressure when they bat again.
Murali Vijay with 128 and Cheteshwar Pujara with 121 not out were the rocks on which the Indian reply was built. Slow at the start of the first two sessions, they switched gears when the situation permitted and their second-wicket partnership of 209 flattened Sri Lanka’s attack on a pitch good for batting. It was a 10th three-figure partnership between the two and the third over 200. Virat Kohli on 54 not out was keeping Pujara company and their association was already worth 96.
The Sri Lankan attack, which had bowled India out for 172 in the first innings of the first Test on a grassy pitch at Eden Gardens, looked handicapped on a flat deck. The fast bowling pair of Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage was economical in the first session when they bowled outside off. Spinner Rangana Herath too kept runs in check bowling wicket to wicket. None were threatening enough and hardly beat the bat.
The medium pace of all-rounder Dasun Shanaka and the off-spin of Dilruwan Perera proved costly. Batsmen took liberties against them and the 34 overs bowled by the two cost Sri Lanka 160 runs. This reduced their team effectively to three bowlers, which was not enough. The visitors did not help their cause also by dropping Vijay twice, on 19 and 61.
The batting on display was slow at times and without frills, which may not have pleased a gathering of nearly 10,000, but it was effective. It was clear that the batsmen were determined to not give the bowlers a chance to get them out. Other than leaving everything outside off in the first hour, they were careful when the fast bowlers tried the short-ball trap with two men deep on the leg-side. Masters at resisting temptation, Vijay and Pujara did not fall for it.
With three days to go and India already dictating terms, it appears that Sri Lanka will face a big deficit in the second innings when wear and tear on the pitch will bring the spin into play. Considering the record of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on such tracks, the visitors face an uphill task if they are to make a match of this.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 205. India 312/2 in 98 overs (Vijay 128, Pujara 121 no, Kohli 54 no). Stumps, Day 2.