KOLKATA: Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul featured in a rollicking 166-run stand to help India erase the 122-run lead they had conceded to Sri Lanka on the penultimate day of the opening Test on Sunday.
Dhawan threw away his wicket at 94, but Rahul was unbeaten on 73 when bad light stopped play with the hosts on 171-1 at the Eden Gardens.
Cheteshwar Pujara was on two at the other end with India 49 runs ahead with nine wickets in hand, an impressive fightback after being all out for 172 in their first innings.
Rahul and Dhawan made batting look easy on a sunny afternoon — a welcome change from the rainy start on the first two days — to keep the Sri Lankan attack at bay.
The hosts had lost the entire top half of their batting order by the time they had accumulated 50 runs in the first innings but Rahul and Dhawan ensured there was no repeat by scoring at nearly four-and-half runs an over.
Dhawan was decisive with his footwork against the slow bowlers, which he demonstrated with two sixes off Sri Lanka’s spin spearhead Rangana Herath.
The left-hander also hit 11 boundaries before rushing out to hit Dasun Shanaka before being caught behind, a decision that stayed after the opener challenged umpire Nigel Llong’s adjudication.
Rahul was his elegant self at the other end as the right-hander registered his ninth 50-plus score in his last 11 Test innings, which included eight crisp boundaries.
“I’m feeling good and bad. Of course it’s disappointing when you’re so close to the century and miss out. But we’ve made a game of this, so I’m happy,” said Dhawan.
“We’re going to be positive tomorrow [Monday] and try to make a match of it. We’re going to go for it,” the left-hander added.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were dismissed for 294 in their first innings after number nine batsman Rangana Herath top-scored for the tourists with a defiant 67.
Paceman Mohammed Shami, who bowled without success on Saturday, claimed four wickets, including that of overnight batsmen Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal, in a fine display of seam bowling to curb Sri Lanka’s progress.
Dilruwan Perera featured in a review drama after being adjudged lbw to Shami.
The batsman appeared to be on his way back to the dressing room when he suddenly turned around to challenge the decision, which was overturned as the point of impact was found to be marginally outside the stumps.
Shami had the last laugh though, as he dismissed Perera caught behind for five.
Conditions on the first two days of the pace-dominated contest meant Herath had a very limited role with the ball and the spinner made his mark with the bat instead, frustrating the hosts with his dogged resistance.
Herath, who registered his third Test fifty, said he wanted to bat as long as possible.
“I wanted to play the shots and stay positive. The credit should go to fast bowlers of both teams. Compared to the first two days, today was much better to bat on and that’s why we were able to go on and take a lead,” Herath told reporters.
“Compared to the first two days of the match, this is a much better pitch to bat on. We have got one more day to go and will see what happens,” the 39-year-old said.
Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who also claimed four wickets, combined to dismiss Herath with the former taking the catch after the batsman had sliced Kumar to backward point.
INDIA (1st Innings) 172 (C.A. Pujara 52; R.A.S. Lakmal 4-26).
SRI LANKA (1st Innings, overnight 165-4):
S. Samarawickrama c Saha b Kumar 23
F.D.M. Karunaratne lbw b Kumar 8
H.D.R.L. Thirimanne c Kohli b Yadav 51
A.D. Mathews c Rahul b Yadav 52
L.D. Chandimal c Saha b Shami 28
N. Dickwella c Kohli b Shami 35
M.D. Shanaka lbw b Kumar 0
M.K.D. Perera c Saha b Shami 5
H.M.R.K.B. Herath c Shami b Kumar 67
R.A.S. Lakmal b Shami 16
P.L S. Gamage not out 0
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-4, W-1) 9
TOTAL (all out, 83.4 overs) 294
FALL OF WKTS: 1-29, 2-34, 3-133, 4-138, 5-200, 6-201, 7-201, 8-244, 9-290.
BOWLING: Kumar 27-5-88-4; Mohammed Shami 26.3-5-100-4; Yadav 20-1-79-2 (1w); Ashwin 8-2-13-0; Kohli 1.1-0-5-0; Jadeja 1-0-1-0.
INDIA (2nd Innings):
K.L. Rahul not out 73
S. Dhawan c Dickwella b Shanaka 94
C.A. Pujara not out 2
EXTRAS (W-1, NB-1) 2
TOTAL (for one wkt, 39.3 overs) 171
FALL OF WKT: 1-166.
BOWLING (to-date): Lakmal 8-0-29-0; Gamage 9-0-47-0 (1nb); Shanaka 9.3-1-29-1 (1w); Perera 10-1-41-0; Herath 3-0-25-0.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2017