Building on Lakmal’s bowling work, Rangana Herath saved sri Lanka’s batting blushes in the first innings and ensured that his side secured a reasonable lead by carving out a pugnacious 67 runs. tTjis effort is suitably recognised by Krishnaswamy and ESPNcricinfo.
Karthik Krishnaswamy in Kolkata, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, November 2017, where the title is “A crucial innings, the Rangana Herath way”
Bowlers who bat a bit (as opposed to bowling allrounders like Mitchell Starc or Vernon Philander) can be broadly divided into two camps: blockers, such as Ishant Sharma or Devendra Bishoo, and bashers, of whom Tim Southee – who has clattered 61 sixes in 57 Tests – would be an extreme example. Rangana Herath doesn’t really fall in either camp. He isn’t built like most bowlers, of spin or seam, and like other short, squat batsmen he’s happiest playing square of the wicket. Early in his innings on Sunday, Bhuvneshwar Kumar swung one into his stumps, late, and was on the verge of appealing for lbw when Herath braced his front leg to make last-minute room for his bat to flick the ball to the midwicket boundary.
At that point Sri Lanka were 206 for 7 and led India by 34. Herath had walked in when India had taken three wickets for just one run, and Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar were snaking the ball this way and that. The first ball Herath faced, from Shami, beat his inside edge and whooshed over the off bail. His flicked four came in an over in which he was beaten four times. When he misread one that swerved away from him and tried to whip it through the leg side, he missed by more than a foot.
But Herath, as he often does, kept fighting, kept punching, kept playing his shots. His glory shot is the pull, into which he puts everything he’s got, swiveling violently and slapping the ball like it’s the villain in a revenge melodrama. He unleashed it on 22, when Shami dropped one short, swatting it away well in front of square.
Slowly, he gained a measure of the conditions and began looking relatively secure even while defending, getting behind the line, flourishing his bat high over his head when he left outside off stump.
Dilruwan Perera, whose delayed decision to review an lbw on 0 earned him the chance to extend his innings by a further 27 balls, added 43 with Herath for the eighth wicket. Suranga Lakmal, weathering a barrage of short balls including one that hit him on the grille, added 46 with Herath for the ninth.
Sri Lanka’s lead swelled. Herath, not really leaning over the ball but trusting his hands to do the job, square-drove Umesh Yadav to bring up his third Test fifty. He pulled Umesh in his next over and beat deep square leg sprinting to his right.
That prompted Virat Kohli to place a fielder two-thirds of the way back at deep midwicket. No use. Herath pulled one to that fielder, Ravindra Jadeja, who fired at the non-striker’s end and gave away four overthrows.
Next ball, Herath flashed at and missed a wide one from Shami. Wriddhiman Saha collected the ball and passed it to second slip, from where Kohli hurled it to R Ashwin at mid-off. It was a flat, hard, one-bounce throw more suited to a run-out chance than the passing chain from keeper to bowler returning to his mark. Few captains are as transparent with their emotions.
By the time India found a way to take the last two wickets – Herath was ninth out for 67 – Sri Lanka’s lead had grown to 122. Every run of that lead was a run they would not need to score while batting last, whether they were to bowl India out quickly in the third innings or, as it turned out, chase leather in rapidly improving batting conditions