Rahane ton puts India on top

Cricket Second Test : Lanka to slip to 72/2 chasing a target of 413, Ashwin holds the key on final day

Rahane ton puts India on top

Ajinkya Rahane, the new selfless workman in the Indian cricket team, crafted another gem before team-mate R Ashwin added some polish to help the visitors push for a series-levelling win against Sri Lanka in the second Test match here on Sunday.

Resuming the day with Murali Vijay (82, 133 balls, 4x4, 2x6) after being promoted to No 3, Rahane cracked a brilliant 126 (243b, 10x4) as the Indians went about their second innings in brisk pace to declare at 325/8 in 91 overs and set the hosts a daunting 413-run target at the P Sara Oval.

Ashwin, the most potent weapon in skipper Virat Kohli’s arsenal, then struck two early blows including that of retiring Kumar Sangakkara to leave the Sri Lankans staring at a herculean challenge of saving this match. Skipper Angelo Mathews (23 batting) and Dimuth Karunaratne (25 batting) saw off the remaining overs to help the hosts reach 72/2 at stumps on the fourth day.

Having preached aggression abundantly prior to the series and then going down in the opening Test thanks to ultra defensive play, Vijay and Rahane finally walked the talk in a determined morning session to set the tempo for the rest of the day.

There was no giving the customary opening hour to the bowlers as they started with plenty of intent to push the Sri Lankans on the back foot at the beginning itself. Playing proper cricketing shots without taking too many risks, they kept getting the boundaries almost every over that left Mathews clueless on the happenings.

Even the 7-2 field for spinners Tharindu Kaushal, who bowled a marathon 23-over spell, and Rangana Herath a little later brought no change as Rahane and Vijay punished anything that was in their range to score at a blistering 5.07 runs an over in the first hour of play. In quick time Vijay brought up his half-century and just when he appeared headed towards a well-deserved ton, he fell leg-before to Kaushal after a failed sweep shot.

Skipper Kohli, also looking to force the pace from the time he walked, perished eight overs later but the tempo of the innings mostly stayed high, dipping a bit only in the last five overs before lunch.

Rahane, in the company of fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma, batted brilliantly in the second session as well. With Rahane nearing a century, Rohit took it upon himself to play the big shots as the Sri Lankans failed miserably in their bid to arrest the flow of runs.

Batting with assuredness, Rahane brought up his fourth Test century — all away — midway through the second session with a comfortable single down fine leg. Thereafter it was all about getting as many quick runs as possible and having a crack at the Lankans which is what they did, declaring with 21 overs left.

The Sri Lankan chase then got off to the worst manner possible when Kaushal Silva hit an Ashwin full toss straight into the hands of Stuart Binny at short midwicket. That set the stage for Sangakkara to sign off on a rousing note but his innings lasted a mere 29  minutes.

Once again given a guard of honour by the Indian team and walking to a thunderous applause from everyone in the compact venue, Sangakkara seemed determined from the word go. His trademark four down the ground off Ishant Sharma and another couple of boundaries hopes of a glorious farewell but it was cut short by the brilliant Ashwin.

Having had the 37-year-old legend’s back all the three times this series, Ashwin then bowled another beauty that silenced the stadium. The ball, pitching around the off stump, drifted in and with Sangakkara pushing forward, all that Sangakkara could manage was an edge to Vijay at second slip.

Karunaratne and Mathews, however, made sure there were no further damages, playing their natural game on slow-paced wickets to instil hope in their camp of salvaging a tough draw on Monday.

Score board

INDIA (I Innings): 393
SRI LANKA (I Innings): 306
INDIA (II Innings, O/n: 70/1):
Vijay lbw Kaushal     82
(133b, 4x4, 2x6)
Rahul b Prasad     2
(3b)
Rahane c Chandimal b Kaushal     126
(243b, 10x4)
Kohli lbw Kaushal     10
(19b)
Rohit c Mubarak b Kaushal     34
(55b, 2x4)
Binny c Thirimanne b Prasad     17
(19b, 3x4)
Saha (not out)     13
(21b, 1x4)
Ashwin c Chandimal b Prasad     19
(21b, 2x4, 1x6)
Mishra c Mubarak b Prasad     10
(26b, 1x4)
Yadav (not out)     4
(7b)
Extras (LB-4, W-3, NB-1)     8
Total (8 wkts decl, 91 overs) 325
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Rahul), 2-143 (Vijay), 3-171 (Kohli), 4-256 (Rohit), 5-262 (Rahane), 6-283 (Binny), 7-311 (Ashwin), 8-318 (Mishra).
Bowling: Prasad 15-0-43-4 (NB-1), Herath 29-4-96-0, Chameera 14-0-63-0, Mathews 2-1-1-0, Kaushal 31-1-118-4.
SRI LANKA (II Innings):
Silva c Binny b Ashwin     1
(9b)
Karunaratne (batting)     25
(62b, 4x4)
Sangakkara c Vijay b Ashwin     18
(3x4)
Mathews (batting)     23
(38b)
Extras (LB-4, NB-1)     5
Total (for 2 wkts, 21 overs)     72
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Silva), 2-33 (Sangakkara).
Bowling: Ashwin 10-5-27-2, Yadav 2-0-10-0, Ishant 4-0-18-0, Mishra 5-1-13-0.

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