COLOMBO: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claimed two early wickets to put India on top of the second Test after the visitors posted 622-9 declared against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Friday.
Ashwin got rid of openers Upul Tharanga for nought and Dimuth Karunaratne for 25 to leave the hosts reeling at 50 for two at stumps on the second day.
Kusal Mendis on 16 and skipper Dinesh Chandimal on eight were batting at close of play with the hosts still trailing by 572 runs in their first innings at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.
“Chandi and Kusal batted really well in the last few overs. We have to play positively,” Karunaratne, who praised Ashwin’s variations as a spinner, told reporters.
“Last time when we played in Galle Chandi got 160-odd scoring a lot of runs off the sweep and reverse sweep. I think that will be key.”
Earlier six Indian batsmen scored 50 or more — including centuries by Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane — as the tourists posted their biggest total in Sri Lanka.
Indian allrounder Ravindra Jadeja hit an unbeaten 70 as wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha made a patient 67 and Ashwin scored 54 before becoming Herath victims.
“Right now, it is a good thing that every batsman is scoring runs. Not only top five or six but also 7, 8, 9, 10,” Rahane told reporters.
“(Mohammed) Shami also scoring a bit, Umesh (Yadav) was also batting well. So it is good that the last four are contributing,” Rahane said.
However the 217-run fourth-wicket partnership between overnight centurions Pujara, who top-scored with 133, and Rahane remained the highlight of India’s innings.
“We thought if we dominate, if we change the momentum, they will be on the back foot straightaway, and that’s what happened,” Rahane said of the marathon stand.
“We knew that one big partnership and they will be on the back foot,” he added.
Pradeep’s injury blow
Veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath claimed four wickets for Sri Lanka, which suffered new injury worries after paceman Nuwan Pradeep left the field on day one with a pulled hamstring.
Karunaratne informed that the hosts will not only miss Pradeep in the ongoing Test but the paceman will be out of action for “one or two months”.
“We prepared this pitch to turn, that’s why we’ve played only one seamer… Now with Nuwan’s injury, there’s no opportunity to get a wicket with the new ball, or through reverse swing when it gets older,” said Karunaratne.
Debutant left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara picked up two wickets. They included batsman Rahane for 132 — his maiden Test scalp — in the morning session.
Part-time bowler Karunaratne claimed Pujara, who added just five runs to his overnight 128 but the damage was already done.
“I started my career as a bowler, not as a batsman, so I can bowl,” said Karunaratne, who took his maiden Test wicket.
India, who lead the three-match series 1-0, need a win to clinch the series. The hosts need at least a draw to keep their hopes alive.