Andrew Fidel Fernando, courtesy of ESPNcricinof, where the title is “The roughest of diamonds”
Tharindu Kaushal‘s 30th over was to Ishant Sharma. It was the ultimate battle of wills. Ishant, with a Test match strike rate of 29, bats like the plague will break out if he tries a scoring stroke. Making 3 from 39 today, he was basically a carcass attached to a bat. Kaushal, with an economy rate upwards of four an over, sends a gift-wrapped full-toss almost every over.
In the end, it was Ishant’s stubborn passivity that triumphed. He played out the whole over to give Kaushal his first maiden of the innings. But through all the dross he sent down, through all the cheap leg-side singles and juicy overpitched deliveries, Kaushal was by a distance Sri Lanka’s most menacing bowler of the day.
Pic from www.dailymail.co.uk
At present he is the roughest of diamonds. Hailing from nearby Rathgama, Kaushal has whirled his way through entire first-class teams for three seasons, and has arrived at the top level to find his flaws are amplified here. Kaushal is not really capable of keeping an end tied up. Batsmen quickly learn to await the friendly balls, which come thick, fast and flighted. There are occasional long hops in between, and he sometimes delivers worse lines than a Michael Bay script. In this innings he also overstepped nine times.
But somewhere beneath the caked-on dirt and clotted grime is a match-turning bowler, because when some of the world’s best players of spin come at him, Kaushal’s instinct is to continue attacking. Maybe he knows no other way. Shikhar Dhawan sailed serenely against the others, but Kaushal had him dropped at 28, probably lbw at 79, and flirted with his outside edge all day.
Virat Kohli played him best from among the India top five, but survived one or two close lbw shouts as well. Kaushal’s ball to get him out cajoled him into the sweep he rarely plays, before it tunnelled beneath the bat to grip and strike the front pad. This time the finger was raised, ending a 228-run stand.
Rahane’s lbw was a little more contentious. Expecting a regular offbreak, he poked his front leg forward, and then was struck on it in front of middle, when the ball burst back at him. India seemed headed for a lead of much more than 200. Inside three deliveries, Kaushal had given Sri Lanka a little hope.
Sri Lanka have had a long stretch of trouble against tail-end batsmen, often lopping off the top of an opposition innings, before being knocked around by batsmen with much worse averages. But when Kaushal is in the side, they have seemed less vulnerable to lower-order counterattacks. Harbhajan Singh was bowled by one that spat past his sweep. Amit Mishra ran at Kaushal – the ball burrowing again to slip between bat and pad. Kaushal didn’t want to expand on why he had bowled so few doosras to the top order, at the end of the day, but got India’s final wicket with the other one, to complete a second five-for in his last three matches.
Maybe he has learnt that international quality batsmen are not as easily fooled by variations as the men he’s used to running rings around at Nondescripts Cricket Club. “There is a big difference between domestic and international cricket,” he said after the day’s play. “At first-class level, you can get even good batsmen out easily. Here you have to use your head. In international cricket the batsmen won’t allow me to settle down. They try to score runs off me by taking singles and rotating the strike to unsettle me. I have to get used to it very quickly.”
Opposite him, Rangana Herath was unable to claim a wicket, but was immaculate through the day, giving away only 67 in his 33 overs. Herath seems a diminished bowler now, aching knees and sore muscles finally catching up with his cricket, but still, Kaushal need only look at his career to learn the benefits of control.
Two wickets already spent in the second innings now, Sri Lanka will have to play well to even avoid a third-day finish at Galle. With the pitch having offered little since lunch on day one, the bowling effort was adequate, especially as there wasn’t much in the way of scoreboard pressure.
For now, the man Sri Lanka hope will carry the spin attack into the future is proving there is some substance to the hype. Maybe it will take a few years. With a little Sri Lankan spit-shine and elbow grease, he might become a match-winner yet.