Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Ravichandran Ashwin speared through Sri Lanka’s batting line-up with a four-wicket haul to help India claim a mammoth innings and 239-run win and a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Ashwin made history with his four-for as he became the fastest bowler in history to take 300 Test wickets as he needed 54 Tests to reach the milestone. The previous record holder was Australia’s Dennis Lillee, who took 56 Tests.
Starting off the day on 21/1, Sri Lanka only added 13 runs to their overnight score before opener Dimuth Karunaratne was caught by Murali Vijay at short leg off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja for 18.
Lahiru Thirimanne managed to make 23 runs before falling to Umesh Yadav, while Angelo Mathews only scored 10 runs before he became Jadeja’s second victim.
Ashwin took over from that point as he sliced through Sri Lanka’s lower order with ease.
However, with India just two wickets away from victory, Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal and pace bowler Suranga Lakmal halted the hosts’ charge with a valiant 58-run partnership, during which Chandimal brought up his half-century.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
But, his time at the crease came to an end shortly after as he was caught by Ashwin at long leg off the bowling of Yadav for 61, which came off 82 balls and included 10 boundaries.
Sri Lanka ended up being bowled out for 166 when Lahiru Gamage was cleaned up by Ashwin for a duck. As a result, Lakmal was left stranded on 31 off 42 deliveries, which included two boundaries and a six.
Ashwin was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets, while Jadeja, Yadav and Ishant Sharma claimed two wickets apiece.
Chandimal was less than impressed with his side’s performance, and said: “It was a good toss to win. Unfortunately, we were outplayed from the first day of the game. Our batting unit let us down again. You have to score at least 350 plus against India to win or even stay in it for five days.
“Before we came here, we had a gameplan. Then we said to the guys, if you get a start, you have to bat long. But they scored only 50-60 runs and got out. It’s unfortunate but I’m sure they will learn. Angelo is the one who is the most senior guy in the line-up. And if he is not scoring, our team goes down. As senior players you need to stand up and perform so the youngsters can follow. I’m sure he will stand up and make it count again.
“Our body language when we were bowling for three days, it was superb. We need to score more runs in the first innings and that’s what we need to do in Delhi. On this wicket, first three days was good to bat on. First innings total became a big factor. Our bowling unit did a really great job, but if there’s no runs on the board, we can’t do anything.”
India captain Virat Kohli, who was named Man of the Match for his knock of 213, was thrilled to have gone 1-0 up in the series, and said: “The pitch was good to bat on. It was on the slower side, but there was nothing much happening from the pitch. I just wanted to bat the way I wanted to. Get into a good position and rotate the strike and score quickly so our bowlers have time to bowl the opposition out.
“We will need that overseas so I was looking at doing that. I always wanted to better myself in scoring daddy hundreds, for the simple reason that the team benefits. When you lose concentration after a hundred, maybe two wickets can fall quickly. A set batsman can play shots easier than a new batsman so I started thinking in that way and my fitness helps me bat for longer periods.
“Wonderfully well, Pujara we know, he’s been very consistent. Vijay was playing after a while, he takes pride in playing Test cricket. I know it hurt him to be out and he came back really well. Rohit as well, making a strong case for himself in the future. He will always be there when we speak about combinations. We have a lot of Test cricket coming up.
“All the bowlers, Bhuvi has played a lot of cricket for India in the last few months. Ishant, Shami and Umesh, not so much. But they bowled a lot of overs in first-class cricket and they always say that’s important for rhythm. And even on this pitch, they were excellent. Although the spinners did a good job for us, Ishant was the standout bowler.
“We would like to think we want to prepare for South Africa. That’s why we asked for pitches with help for the fast bowlers. This one deteriorated. Kolkata was the ideal wicket. There’s not enough time in between to prepare so we have to use the time we have now for a big tour coming up.”