Dhawan, Rahul lead Indian fightback

Dhawan, Rahul lead Indian fightback

Openers slam half-centuries as India make 171 for 1 in second innings

Dhawan, Rahul lead Indian fightback

After the bowlers dominated the play on the first three days, the batsmen turned the tables on them on the fourth day of the first Test in telling fashion.

Three big fifties were scored, including one from a tailender, on Sunday's penultimate day, perhaps reflecting how good the pitch has become to bat now.  Sri Lanka, overnight 165/4, started the day on a bright note, wobbled a bit and then recovered to fold up for 294 in 83.4 overs here at the Eden Gardens which saw another large turnout. Rangana Herath (67, 105b, 9x4) was the unlikely batsman to excel as Lanka took a handsome 122-run lead over India's first innings total of 172.

Lanka appeared to have good enough cushion to push for a win but the Indian openers neutralised the advantage with the best batting display of the match yet in terms of pure domination of the bat over the ball. KL Rahul (73 n.o., 189m, 113b, 8x4) and Shikhar Dhawan (94, 175m, 116b, 11x4, 2x6) were largely untroubled during a 166-run stand for the opening wicket, helping India not only wipe out the deficit but take a 49-run lead. India finished the day at 171/1 in 39.3 overs when bad light forced another early closure.

Rahul struck his ninth fifty in the last 11 innings and is looking good for a three-figure score. He looked confident from the off, creaming Lahiru Gamage repeatedly through mid-off to set the tempo for the innings. Dhawan took a little time settle in before reeling off one audacious shot after another. He was particularly severe on the bowlers once he brought up his half-century but fell on the cusp of a well-deserved hundred going for another extravagant stroke. The southpaw reviewed the caught-behind decision but the snicko confirmed a slight spike to uphold the on-field decision.        

Earlier, Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal began the day on a positive note, latching on to every scoring opportunity against the Indian pacers who often erred in both length and line. Though Dickwella never looked comfortable, beaten repeatedly while feeling for the ball in the corridor, he never shied away from playing his strokes. Chandimal was less attacking but didn't hesitate either to put the bad balls away and there were a handful of them. As a result, runs came thick and fast in the first hour as Sri Lanka raced to 200 in quick time.

Things, however, took a drastic turn when Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami found their rhythm getting the ball to move both ways, in the air and as well as off the pitch. It helped that the deviation of the ball was just enough to take the outside edge than miss it. Dickwella fell to one such delivery which swung in and hit the spot where extra bounce was available. The batsman poked and was caught. Shami claimed Chandimal as well, this time with an outswinger and putting Wriddhiman Saha in business again. Sandwiched between these two scalps was Dasun Shanaka's dismissal. Shanaka offered no shot an inswinger from Bhuvneshwar and was rapped on the pads. The all-rounder reviewed the verdict only to see it was an umpire's call.

Three wickets in the space of 10 balls and for the addition of a solitary run brought India back into the game before Herath and Dilruwan Perera, who survived after an unusual review, stemmed the free fall. While Dilruwan didn't add anything significant to the total, he stayed firm in the middle as Herath collected valuable runs on either side of the wicket. The veteran used the cut and the pull to good effect after having seen the previous batsmen get out playing through the line. Suranga Lakmal too lent a good support as Lanka added 93 runs for the last three wickets, probably ensuring that they won't lose the Test if not win it.