Hardik and Kuldeep star as India bully SL

This wouldn’t even constitute a one-horse race. This wouldn’t even constitute a race. India have played the three Tests at their own fancy, and Sri Lanka, like polite and overtly generous hosts, have just sat back and let the others have all the fun. The story continued into Day 2 of the final Test, with India trampling all over their hapless hosts. Led by a swashbuckling Hardik Pandya hundred, he became the first Indian to score a hundred before Lunch – albeit in an extended session, India amassed 487, before proceeding to bundle out their opposition for 135 and enforcing the follow-on. Sri Lanka couldn’t really manage a better start in the second essay, with Upul Tharanga being bowled for 7 by Umesh Yadav. They ended the day at 19/1, still 333 runs behind before making India bat again.

Hardik first battered the Sri Lankans to the ground with a stunning hundred, then he came back to take a vital wicket to place them in a coffin. Soon after, he completed a catch in the deep to hammer the nails on the coffin. The allrounder had a field day, easily the best he’s had in his international career so far, and gave India a massive advantage. Almost as fresh as Pandya in the Test circuit, Kuldeep Yadav too played a vital part, first chipping in with an important cameo, and then taking 4 for 40 as Sri Lanka’s will to fight slowly dissipated.

India started the day in a decent spot at 329/6, but still needed their lower order to come good. Wriddhiman Saha fell in the second over of the day, cutting to gully, but in Kuldeep they found a player who could hold one end up. Pandya reigned in his natural game and alongside Kuldeep focussed on putting India’s innings back on track.

The pair brought up their fifty-run stand off 93 balls and soon India were past the 400-run mark. Lakshan Sandakan then had Kuldeep out caught for 26, and followed that up with a caught and bowled to send back Mohammed Shami. The arrival of Umesh Yadav, India’s number 11, gave Hardik the license to go for the big hits. And he used that to the hilt.

Dinesh Chandimal placed all his nine fielders on the fence, but Pandya still took the aerial route fearlessly. He smashed Malinda Pushpakumara for 26 runs in a single over, the most scored by an Indian in Tests, to make his intentions clear. Similar treatment was meted out to the rest of the Sri Lankan bowlers, and runs started to flood in.

He’d gotten to his fifty off 61 balls, but then raced to his maiden century off just 86 balls. He was out three balls after Lunch, but had given India enough momentum to bash the Lankans in. The attack was so severe on the Sri Lankans that when Lunch was called, after Pandya had tapped a ball to the on-side, none of the Lankans even bothered retrieving it. They just wanted to head back to the safety of the dressing room. India held on the aces and the bowlers had the chance to cash in.

And they did that emphatically. Umesh Yadav struggled for consistency, but Mohammed Shami more than made up for his partner’s lack of penetration. He had Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne caught behind to leave them reeling early on, and unlike Sri Lanka, India did not give their opposition any room for a fightback.

Ashwin’s sharp fielding, not so much his throwing, resulted in the run out of Kusal Mendis, while Pandya trapped Angelo Mathews plumb in front for a duck. Niroshan Dickwella played the usual attacking cameo before the usual rush of blood resulting in his wicket, while Dilruwan Perera pulled a straight ball to Pandya in the deep. At 107/6, the writing was on the wall.

And Kuldeep ensured that the letters were emboldened further. He had Malinda Pushpakumara and Vishwa Fernando out to take his third and fourth wickets, while Ashwin wrapped up the innings with the wicket of Sandakan for 10.

India duly enforced the follow-on, hoping to capitalise further on Sri Lanka’s battered state. Umesh gave them the opening by sending back Tharanga as Sri Lanka went into stumps at 19/1.

Sri Lanka’s sorry performance with the bat, 135 all-out, reflected the shambolic state they are in. Three times this series they have conceded first innings leads in excess of 300, and all three Tests have been massively one-sided contests. It will take some doing for them to turn this into a proper contest. Going by the way they’ve played thus far, that only makes for wishful thinking.

Brief Scores: India 487 (Shikhar Dhawan 119, Hardik Pandya 108, KL Rahul 85; Lakshan Sandakan 4-132, Malinda Pushpakumara 3-82) lead Sri Lanka 135 (Dinesh Chandimal 48; Kuldeep Yadav 4-40) & 19/1 (following-on) (Umesh Yadav 1-3) by 333 runs.


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