In his 28-Test captaincy career, Virat Kohli has had to decide about batting again on eight occasions. Only three times, he has asked the opposition to follow-on.
“Chasing a target is always a big-pressure situation because if you lose a wicket, you don’t know how the new batsmen will react under that pressure. So we always like that format where we put opposition under pressure for chasing in a Test in the fourth innings, more often than we do it,” revealed Kohli after India yesterday won the second Test by an innings and 53 runs.
There is certain template about India’s Test plans nowadays. Win toss and bat first, put up a tall score and unleash the spin twins.
In a few Tests at home, they have batted second and yet managed to follow the same plan (Mumbai and Chennai Tests against England). It was no different in Colombo then, as India put 622/9d on the board and then watched the opposition crumble to 183 all out.
It is but obvious that this collapse proved to be the difference between these two sides. It is also a foregone conclusion that this 439-run lead conceded in the first innings – when the SSC pitch was still good for batting – is a marker of the gulf between these two sides at present.
This has been a lopsided series so far. The Indian team is a well-oiled machine that has blasted every opponent out of the park in the past season or so.
Yes, much of this has been achieved on familiar turf of the sub-continent, or in tropical climates of West Indies and Sri Lanka where pitches aren’t too different from home. But there is definitive consistency about this team’s play.
This has been gilded together primarily by two components: a steady batting line-up and a hunting pair of spinners.
Both elements are joined tog-ether by an in-form pace attack, which although limited by conditions, still has its uses. Even so, you only need to pick out three names herein – Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Since September last year, Pujara has raked up 1617 runs in 15 Tests at 67.37, including the 133 he scored here at the SSC in his 50th Test. He also scored 153 in the first Test at Galle. The Ashwin-Jadeja axis combined to take 153 wickets in the 13-Test long home-season.
They have already taken 24 out of 37 wickets on offer in this current series. There is almost a sense of inevitability when playing against this Indian side.
It becomes more pronounced when a struggling outfit, like Sri Lanka, get caught in the crosshairs. Was their first innings’ collapse here a sign of that intense pressure inflicted by a dominant opponent? What about their scores of 291 and 245 on a benign Galle pitch?
In this light, the 191-run partnership between Dimuth Karunaratne (141) and Kusal Mendis (110) seems a ray of hope.
For a change, not one but two Lankan batsmen stood up to the onslaught of the No1 ranked Test side. They weren’t deterred by the task at hand, nor in awe of the spin-twins as both batsmen swept their way to glory.
For a change, they made even Ashwin and Jadeja think about redrawing their plans. “They played high-risk shots but with great effect. We had to bowl with variation to induce a top edge, but it didn’t work,” said Ashwin.
In the overall context of the game, Karunaratne and Mendis had only delayed the inevitable. In the grander scheme of things pertaining to Lankan cricket, the duo gave a fleeting glimpse of a possibly brighter future.
India inflicted a crushing innings defeat on Sri Lanka in the second Test of the three-match series in Colombo to clinch the series in style.
A stubborn resistance from the hosts, led by Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis frustrated Virat Kohli’s men before a five-wicket haul from Ravindra Jadeja completed a second consecutive Test series win in the island after the historic victory in 2015.
As all eyes now move to the final Test at Colombo, we cast a look at the key performers and major disappointments of the game.
It is a tough task to pick two stand-out performers amongst multiple match-winning performances but Pujara’s magnificent knock of 133 on his 50th Test appearance confirms his conclusion.
The milestone man was in imperious touch from the word go as he completed his 13th Test ton. Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were in complete control against the Sri Lankan attack as they enabled India to put on 622 in the first innings.
Pujara’s century continued his brilliant form against the islanders against whom he has now scored three tons in his previous three matches in Sri Lanka. Amongst Indian batsman, only Sachin Tendulkar has more Test centuries in Sri Lanka with five to his name.
The 29-year-old also completed a stunning catch at gully in Sri Lanka’s first innings to send back the dangerous looking Angelo Matthews, capping a fine showing.
The all-rounder has had a fabulous 2017 so far and it looks all set to continue after a fine man-of-the-match performance in Colombo. Jadeja scored an unbeaten quick-fire 70 in the first innings which included three towering sixes to put India firmly in control on the second day.
He then dismissed Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal and all-rounder Dhananjaya de Silva with his left-arm spinners as the hosts were bundled out for just 183 runs.
In Sri Lanka’s second innings, the hosts had managed to frustrate the Indians with a resolute showing from Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne.
For a while it looked like India were running out of ideas and would be forced to bat again on a fifth day pitch when Jadeja took the game by the scruff of the neck to claim five wickets in quick succession.
The leg-spinner brought an end to centurion Karunaratne’s marathon effort with a vicious delivery that took off from a length and this in turn opened the floodgates for India’s series win.
The 32-year-old is one of the more experienced members of a Sri Lanka squad still in transition and as such a lot is expected of him. The stylish left-handed batsman has been in decent knick of late though and scored a half-century in the Galle loss.
However, Tharanga had a Test to forget at Colombo scoring a combined total of two runs in the match. In the first innings, he fell for nought while trying a swat an innocuous looking delivery from Ravichandran Ashwin only to see KL Rahul snap an excellent catch at short-leg.
He fared just marginally better in the second innings before Umesh Yadav castled his off-stump with a beautiful in-swinger to end the left-hander’s misery.
With a lot of fresh faces in the squad, the onus lies on the likes of Tharanga, Angelo Matthews and Dinesh Chandimal to provide solidarity to the batting order. The opener will have to raise his hand and bear the brunt of the responsibility in the final Test.
The Sri Lankan skipper had to miss the Galle Test due to pneumonia and his return to the side was expected to provide some experience in the middle-order.
His unbeaten 162 against the same opposition in Galle two years earlier had handed Sri Lanka an improbable win then and something similar was required here after the hosts were forced to follow in the second innings.
After being dismissed by Jadeja for just 10 runs in the first innings, Chandimal fared no better in the second – succumbing to the same bowler for just two runs.
Despite not being fully fit, the skipper has much to answer after his side capitulated to an innings defeat.
He will need to lead his young Sri Lankan side from the front.
Virat Kohli’s men claimed their second consecutive Test series in Sri Lanka courtesy of a mammoth innings and 53 run victory in Colombo on Sunday.
With this win, India have now claimed eight straight series on the trot as they continue to consolidate their position at the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings.
While Ravindra Jadeja ran away with the man of the match award for his all-round show with both bat and ball, we analyse each of the 22 stars who took to the field in the Test match.
The opener looked solid in both of his innings and even claimed his maiden Test scalp. However, it was his fighting 141 in the second innings for which Karunaratne deserves all the plaudits. It’s a shame he ended up on the losing side.
The left-hander had a Test to forget after being dismissed for a duck in the first innings before falling for just two runs in the second.
The 22-year-old youngster gave Sri Lanka cause for optimism despite the heavy defeat as he followed up his promising start in Tests to score his third century in a defiant display along with Karunaratne in the second innings.
The skipper’s return after missing out the Galle Test due to pneumonia was meant to provide Sri Lanka with some experience in the middle order but Chandimal could only muster 12 runs in his two innings.
The former skipper of the side got decent starts twice but failed to convert them into big scores when it really counted.
The Sri Lankan wicket-keeper scored a solid half-century in the first innings and was looking good in the second before succumbing to Hardik Pandya.
The all-rounder had a disappointing game with both bat and ball as he went wicket-less while only managing a combined total of 17 runs.
It was a frustrating match for the off-spinner as he could claim only a solitary wicket in the 40 overs he threw down. He did not have the best of times with the bat either.
The left-arm spinner picked up two Indian wickets on his debut but was costly as the batsmen did not allow him to settle. His dismissal after attempting a reverse sweep in the second innings will not do the 30-year-old any favours either.
The pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with four wickets but much more was expected of the veteran spinner as he shoulders the responsibility of leading the bowling attack.
The best Sri Lankan bowler in the Galle Test was left clutching his hamstring on the first day which ruled him out from bowling for the remainder of the game.
The Indian opener had a memorable Galle Test and was looking good for his 35 runs before being dismissed by Perera.
Dhawan’s opening partner scored his sixth consecutive fifty on the trot before being run-out in an unfortunate mix-up.
The right-hander had a 50th Test to remember as he scored his 13th Test century to help India amass a massive first innings total. Pulled off a stunner at gully to send Matthews packing in the first innings.
The Indian skipper failed to follow up his unbeaten century in Galle as he was dismissed for just 13 runs by Herath. He rotated his bowlers well as India romped home to victory.
The Mumbai-born middle-order batsman scored a classy 132 as he and Pujara helped India tot up 622 runs to put the game beyond Sri Lanka’s reach.
The wicket-keeper had a solid time behind the stumps as well as scoring a solid 67 in India’s innings to round–off a fine performance.
The all-rounder had a great impact on the Test with his five-wicket haul in the first innings along with a fifty. Ashwin also joined an elite list of players to have picked up more than 200 wickets and scored over 2,000 runs in Test cricket.
The other all-rounder had the perfect game after scoring a fine half-century in the first innings and then followed it up with a five-wicket haul in the second innings to hand India the win.
The third all-rounder in the Indian squad made the most of opportunities in his limited role. While his medium pacers were not called upon in the first innings, he provided the crucial breakthrough of Kusal Mendis in the second.
The Indian pacer did not see much action with the ball on a spinning track but was effective when called upon. He took two crucial wickets in the 18 overs he threw down in the two innings.
Just like Yadav, Shami was not required to do a lot of bowling but he was his usual best in the limited overs he bowled. Picked up two crucial wickets in the first innings.