India ended a long run of near misses in glorious fashion, trouncing Sri Lanka for a morale-boosting, series-levelling 278-run win in the second Test here on Monday.
Since they hit the road in December 2013 starting with the tour of South Africa, the Indians have flattered to deceive, coming close to winning on a few occasions but managing just a sole victory over England at Lord’s against seven defeats in 15 attempts. One of them even included a shattering loss against Sri Lanka in the opening Test at Galle, a match they had dominated for most parts before suffering a batting implosion on the fourth day.
They, however, wiped all that pain and agony at a gloomy P Sara Oval in crushing manner, blasting out Sri Lanka for 134 in just 111 minutes (only Monday) with star spinner R Ashwin once again playing the lead act to perfection, grabbing a 5/42.
Resuming at 72/2, the hosts faced a herculean challenge against an Indian side that was determined to correct the mistakes of the past. The hungry visitors got off to the best possible start when pacer Umesh Yadav sent in-form skipper Angelo Mathews (23) packing off the first ball of the day.
He bowled the ball at a perfect length just around the off stump and Mathews, who scored a century in the first innings, poked at it only to see makeshift wicketkeeper KL Rahul complete a superb diving catch.
Having got the key wicket unexpectedly early, the Indians then started to bowl with a major spring in their step. Well aware about the vulnerability of the young Sri Lankan side that has struggled against top quality bowling in the recent past, they kept asking the questions almost every ball and justly got their rewards.
Amit Mishra (3/29), who has held his own in his comeback series, accounted for the dangerous Dinesh Chandimal in the seventh over of the day with a beauty. Looking to sweep a classic leg-spinner’s ball, Chandimal was completely outfoxed and was bowled around the legs as the Indians then started to tighten the noose.
The only concern for the Indians was the weather. With dark clouds covering the stadium and the light metre coming out a few times, it seemed that rain could play spoilsport in their quest for a win that has been eluding them for a year despite some good performances.
However, the rain stayed away until lunch and the Indians went about their job in a very professional manner. They hardly loosened the hold and with the hosts throwing away their wickets rather tamely without a semblance of fight after realising they were waging a losing battle, the end came sooner than expected.
Three wickets in three overs right after the first drinks break put the Indians on the threshold of a major win. Ashwin, procuring plenty of turn and bounce that had the Sri Lankans in all sorts of problem, accounted for Lahiru Thirimamanne. The left-hander came down the track and tried to close the face of the bat and the ball took the edge to substitute Cheteshwar Pujara at silly point.
Jehan Mubarak and Dhammika Prasad seemed in a hurry to go back home as they perished without contributing anything. The nail was then hammered into the Sri Lankan coffin when Ashwin dismissed the stubborn Dimuth Karunaratne for his second five-wicket haul of the series and 12th career-wise.
Caught in two minds to a fast one, left-handed Karunaratne stayed rooted to his crease and tried to play it off his back foot. But the ball sped onto him and he ended up inside-edging it to his pads and the stumps.
Thereafter, Mishra took over by wiping out Tharindu Kaushal and with just one wicket away from victory, the Indians were forced to delay their party after the heavens opened up. Thankfully the intense spell lasted only a few minutes as lunch was advanced.
Mishra, just too good for the tail-enders with his leg-breaks and googly, then trapped Dushmantha Chameera leg-before in the seventh ball after the resumption as the team converged on him to savour a much-needed and thoroughly deserved win.
INDIA (I Innings): 393
SRI LANKA (I Innings): 306
INDIA (II Innings): 325/8 decl
SRI LANKA (II Innings, O/n: 72/2):
Silva c Binny b Ashwin 1
Karunaratne b Ashwin 46
Sangakkara c Vijay b Ashwin 18
Mathews c Rahul b Yadav 23
Chandimal b Mishra 15
(30b, 1x4, 1x6)
Thirimanne c sub b Ashwin 11
Mubarak c Kohli b Ishant 0
Prasad c Mishra b Ashwin 0
Herath (not out) 4
Kaushal lbw Mishra 5
Chameera lbw Mishra 4
Extras (LB-4, W-1, NB-2) 7
Total (all out, 43.4 overs) 134
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Silva), 2-33 (Sangakkara), 3-72 (Mathews), 4-91 (Chandimal), 5-106 (Thirimanne), 6-111 (Mubarak), 7-114 (Prasad), 8-123 (Karunaratne), 9-128 (Kaushal).
Bowling: R Ashwin 16-6-42-5, Umesh Yadav 7-1-18-1, Ishant Sharma 11-2-41-1, Amit Mishra 9.4-3-29-3.