The normality seems to have been restored. After a rare Sri Lankan domination for most part of the first Test, aided no less by the favourable underfoot and overhead conditions for the pacemen in Kolkata, India seized early initiative of the second Test on a pitch where bowlers needed to work hard for their wickets rather than let extraneous factors take care of their business.
The pitch wasn't anywhere near what has been demanded by the Indian team but it wasn't either the typical turner the VCA stadium has generally thrown up in the recent past. The grass cover turned out to be a mere illusion as seam movement was limited while overhead conditions were hardly conducive for swing. Though the bounce was appreciable, the spinners couldn't extract much turn from the first-day track. Yet, the four-pronged Indian attack bowled with commendable discipline and skill to pack off a listless Sri Lanka for a modest 205 all out in 79.1 overs here at the VCA's Jamtha Stadium on Friday.
Only a fortuitous Dimuth Karunaratne (51, 211m, 147b, 6x4) and a solid Dinesh Chandimal (57, 156m, 122b, 4x4, 1x6) withstood the Indian test as no more than three batsmen made 20 or more runs in another disappointing batting show by the tourists. Ishant Sharma (3/37), who returned to the side in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, got a wicket in three of his four spells while the spin duo of R Ashwin (4/67) and Ravindra Jadeja (3/56) were back doing what they do best â€“ destroying opponents. With just a hint of turn on offer, the off-spin and left-arm spin combo bowled stump to stump lines, got the ball to drift and dip and made the batsmen play the wrong lines and lengths -- evident from several bowled and lbw decisions -- to return impressive figures.
India, in reply, finished the day on 11 for the loss of K L Rahul in eight overs, trailing Lanka by 194 runs. M Vijay (2 n.o.), who replaced Shikhar Dhawan, and Cheteshwar Pujara (1 n.o.) were keeping vigil when stumps were drawn for the day.
An unchanged Lanka won another good toss and promptly elected to bat first. Openers Sadira Samarwickrama and Karunaratne looked comfortable without trying to dominate India's new-ball bowlers Ishant and Umesh Yadav. While there was not much for the pacers in the pitch apart from good bounce and carry, the two right-arm quicks didn't give away too many scoring chances. They maintained a nagging line outside off-stump and perfect length to discourage the tourists, barring Samarwickrama, from taking chances. The opener played Ishant away from the body to pay the price.
After the opener's fall, Karunaratne and one-drop Lahiru Thirimanne shut shop and went on a marathon blockathon. While their approach was extremely cautious, the Indian bowlers should be given a lot of credit for sustaining the intensity for extended periods. With runs having dried up, especially after the first hour, Lanka began to show needless urgency. Karunaratne nearly got run-out while going for a non-existent single, was dropped by Pujara at mid-on on 15 while trying a pull and was stumped off a no-ball by Jadeja on 21. He might as well have bought a lottery ticket for himself on the day! Lanka departed for lunch at 47/2 in 27 overs but they were more proactive in the second session. They did lose two more wickets but added 104 runs in 32 overs to break for tea at a relatively comfortable 151/4.
The final session, however, saw Jadeja and Ashwin turn on the heat in telling fashion. While Ashwin got the ball to drift beautifully from round the wicket, Jadeja benefited from bowling sliders and arm balls. That some of the Lankans, including skipper Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella, resorted to outlandish strokes to get out only added to their woes.