NAGPUR: India were slowly but surely inching towards a total that would put pressure on Sri Lanka in the second innings. Having wrapped up the visiting team for 205 a day earlier, the hosts reached 185/1 at tea on Day 2. The platform for a big total was laid by Murali Vijay (106 no) and Chjeteshwar Pujara (71 no).
Proceedings were painstaking at times when runs came at a snail’s pace. The first 16 overs of the day produced 31 runs, the first hour after lunch 39 from 15. Importantly from India’s point of view, the pace increased. Despite going slow in phases, the two sessions before tea saw the addition of 174 runs in 57 overs without the loss of wickets.
Vijay was fortunate in the sense that he survived being caught on 19 and again on 61, but was almost flawless other than those occasions. Driving perfectly through the covers and judgement outside off stump as sure as ever, he was making a statement that dropping him for the previous Test was an injudicious call. There couldn’t have been a better reminder of that than a 10th Test century. Incidentally, it came at a venue where he made Test debut in 2008.
More circumspect in comparison, Pujara too was doing what he does best. Leaving outside off when the fast bowlers bowled that channel in the first session and not playing in the air, he was a picture of concentration. He also resisted temptation when the fast bowlers tried the short-ball trap with two fielders deep in the leg side. A 17th Test half-century was a just reward, although he would surely be looking at crossing three figures.
There was nothing in the pitch for bowlers and the Sri Lankan attack had little to challenge the batsmen. They were economical bowling outside off alright, but never really threatening. Even the two chances offered by Vijay came when he was trying to force the pace, rather than the bowlers creating opportunities. Other than the odd one, the ball hardly beat the bat.
With Vijay and Pujara completing a 10th century stand between them and India within touching distance of the Sri Lankan total, how big a lead they take was the question in the minds of a decent crowd of 10,000 in the stands.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 205. India 185/1 (Vijay 106 no, Pujara 71 no). Tea. Day 2.