India for the second successive occasion topped 600 runs batting first and scoring 622-9 declared. It was the 29th time in Test cricket they had topped that figure with only Australia ahead with 32.
By the close Sri Lanka who are already 1-0 down in the three-match series was struggling at 50 for two wickets, trailing by 572. Two of their most exciting batters are in the middle Kusal Mendis on 16 and Dinesh Chandimal on eight. A lot will depend on this pair if Sri Lanka is to make any headway towards getting past the follow-on mark which is 423.
When the Indian spinners came on to bowl the ball started to spit, bite and bounce to a degree that made batting out in the middle suddenly uneasy. Upul Tharanga was unlucky for the second time in a Test. On this occasion he played Ashwin off his legs straight to short leg fielder Rahul’s midriff. At Galle he was run out with his bat in the air.
Dimuth Karunaratne went edging a catch to first slip for 25 to give Ashwin who opened the bowling with Mohammad Shami his second wicket of the innings. Ashwin had earlier taken his career aggregate past 2000 Test runs when he scored a useful 54 and with 200plus Test wickets is turning out to be a more than useful all-rounder for India.
When India resumed at 344-3, Sri Lanka dismissed both overnight batsmen within the first 83 minutes – Cheteswaran Pujara adding only five to his overnight score of 128 and Ajinkya Rahane 29 to his 103. Their dismissals in the first session presented part time seamer Dimuth Karunaratne and debutant Malinda Pushpakumara with their maiden Test wickets.
Pushpakumara toiled 22.1 overs for his first wicket conceding 91 runs, but Karunaratne who made the first break through for his team in the morning did not have to wait that long winning a confident lbw decision against Pujara off the first over he bowled yesterday.
If Sri Lanka thought they were through to the Indian late order and tail they had another big surprise in store for the lower order proved more than a handful. Ashwin, wicket-keeper Saha and Jadeja all made half-centuries as India grounded the Lankan bowling to the dust.
It was frustrating having gone into the match with just one fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep and having lost his services for the match after he pulled his left hamstring on the first day, Sri Lanka were down to just three spinners who had to bear the brunt of the bowling as the Indian batters really capitalised on the shortcoming to pile on the runs.
Herath bowled 42 overs for four wickets, Dilruwan Perera 40 overs for one wicket and Pushpakumara 38.2 overs for two wickets – the three of them conceded 457 of the total number of runs scored by India.
It was tough ask for Sri Lanka who in this series has a habit of losing players through injuries which places an extra burden on the rest of the team members and also hinders their game plans for the match. At Galle they were minus Asela Gunaratne and Herath and here Pradeep is doubtful for the rest of the match.
Everything depends on the amount of runs Sri Lanka can put on the board in the first innings while the pitch is still playing well. It is slow but not impossible to bat. The longer the batsman spends time in the middle the more chances he has of getting a big score. One has only to look at how the Indian batters built their innings with six of them getting past fifty. The difference between the two sides is that unlike the Lankan bowlers who were not consistent with their lines and lengths the Indians are not going to give any easy runs because they know which channels to bowl.
Indian captain Virat Kohli celebrates with his team mates the fall of Dimuth Karunaratne’s wicket for 25. AFP