India in complete control

Vijay, Pujara slam centuries as hosts take 107-run lead over Lankans

India in complete control

The difference between India and Sri Lanka was their respective bowling attacks. Though the hosts seemed to have a bowler less on a wicket without any demons in it, their discipline and superior skills sets ensured they ended the tourists' first innings well inside the first day's play of the second Test.

On Saturday's second day here at the VCA stadium, buzzing with hundreds of school children, Sri Lankan bowlers appeared to have taken a cue from their Indian counterparts as they kept overnight batsmen M Vijay (128, 311m, 228b, 11x4, 1x6) and Cheteshwar Pujara (121 n.o., 391m, 284b, 13x4) quiet in the first hour of the opening session. Pacers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage and left-arm spinner Rangana Herath bowled tight spells giving little away as India, overnight 11/0 in reply to Lanka's 205 all out, could muster only 32 runs in 16 overs.

At the same time, though, there appeared to be no intent from the Indian batsmen to take the game forward. While there weren't many loose deliveries to latch onto, they could have rotated the strike more often than they did. Whether there was a message during the first drinks break or it was the introduction of Dilruwan Perera and Dasun Shanaka into the attack, Vijay and Pujara broke their shackles once the play resumed. Though India could have done with some more aggro from Pujara, his 209-run stand for the second wicket with fellow centurion, Vijay, effectively shut the door on Lankans. At close, India had reached 312/2 in 98 overs, having built a lead of 107 runs.    

Skipper Virat Kohli (54 n.o., 95m, 70b, 6x4) then raised 96 runs in just 135 balls for the unbroken third wicket with Pujara to further consolidate India's position. His arrival injected the much-needed urgency in to the Indian innings as they looked to expand their advantage. With India already in commanding position at 216/2, Kohli was off the blocks immediately, running hard between wickets and picking up the odd boundary. With still eight wickets in hand and three days to go, India would be looking at a total from where they don't have to bat again.                

In the absence of lateral movement off the pitch for the pacers and lack of turn for the spinners, the Lankan bowlers needed to stick to stump to stump line which some of them managed in patches, especially at the start, but Dilruwan and Shanaka bowled too many boundary balls to take the pressure off the Indian batsmen. Even when they bowed good lines, they were often off their lengths, as both Vijay and Pujara hit them either through the line of the ball or took the ball on the full to send it scurrying through onside. Vijay, playing his first match for India in more than eight months following IPL and an injury lay-off, also employed the paddle and reverse-paddle to good effect as runs flowed at a decent pace.

While for Pujara, who became the third batsmen this year to complete 1000 Test runs after Dean Elgar and Dimuth Karunaratne, it was his 14th career century, Vijay brought up his 10th. Renewing their prolific partnership that they had left in Ranchi against Australia, the right-handed duo raised their third double hundred stand for the second wicket. This was also their fourth consecutive 100-run association for the same wicket.

Vijay, who replaced Shikhar Dhawan in the playing 11, looked set for a big ton but got out to one of the most innocuous deliveries that a batsman can receive – a harmless full toss from Herath who had bowled beautifully till then without any commensurate reward. Trying to put away the delivery, the right-hander only managed a healthy top-edge to short fine-leg. His partner Pujara, however, chugged along, scoring his third century against Lanka in last five Tests. Incidentally, Pujara would be batting for the eighth consecutive day, having been at the crease on all five days of the first Test and the first two days of this game.

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