India vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test: Pacer Suranga Lakmal Puts Hosts on Backfoot on Day 1.


Suranga Lakmal bowled six overs, claimed three wickets and surrendered no runs.
New Delhi: Just 11.5 overs were possible on the first day of Sri Lanka’s first Test series in India since 2009. The elements saw to that. But in the span of those few overs, Sri Lanka made the most of winning a crucial toss. Suranga Lakmal bowled six overs, claimed three wickets and surrendered no runs. By the time stumps were called and bad light stopped play for the umpteenth time, India struggled at 17 for 3. Cheteshwar Pujara’s resilient, at times nervous, 43-ball unbeaten 8 was their only knock of note at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday (November 16).
Lakmal bowled with wide grin throughout his spell. And he had plenty of reasons to smile: the pitch was as green as they came in India, and the overcast conditions ensured the seam bowlers had plenty to work with. The banana swing on offer, along with plenty of bounce, prompted Dinesh Chandimal, the captain, to place four slips and a gully outside off. Virat Kohli revealed he was looking forward to seeing how his side fared in challenging batting conditions, something they are sure to face in South Africa. By the evidence so far, the prognosis was negative.
Lakmal struck with the very first ball of the series, the sort of delivery any batsman would dread at any point in a match. This was no loosener. It pitched on off stump, seamed away late and got a decent bounce. KL Rahul was squared up, the edge was drawn, and there was nothing he could do. It meant Pujara walked into a minefield. Lakmal zigged-zagged the ball all over, and the Sri Lankans were oohing and aahing, with good reason, at every prompt.
It was a pressure situation, one that accentuated the importance of Pujara to this Indian side. He left, dead-batted and evaded to slowly, gradually peg Sri Lanka back a bit. In fact, it took him 22 deliveries to get off the mark, and that too with a shot he wouldn’t play a second time – a streaky push away from his body with soft hands off Lahiru Gamage. It went through the packed slip cordon and into the fence. Sri Lanka were soon back in front though after Dhawan needlessly attempted to take on Lakmal and chopped one onto stumps.
Out came Kohli. Another gully was added outside off, making for remarkable pictures. India’s runs largely came, when they did, off Gamage – Pujara’s drive through mid-off ended up at the fence, earning him a pat on the back from his captain – with Lakmal bowling the spell of his life at the other end. It was vintage Test match cricket, but unfortunately, the elements played spoilsport again – bad light and then another drizzle enforced another layoff.
India would have used that break to recalibrate their plans on what were tricky conditions. Unfortunately, Lakmal was having none of it. He continued probing that nagging off-stump line, and the challenge for the batsmen was in guessing which way the ball would move. In Kohli’s case, it moved in drastically, and the Indian captain was trapped plumb in front. He chose to review, knowing that an umpire’s call verdict would no longer cost the side. But it was unsuccessful all the same. Lakmal had a sixth straight maiden with three wickets.
Gamage then strayed dangerously close to Pujara’s off-stump with ripper, a full delivery that moved just a tad away with the batsman committed on his front foot. Once again though, the light levels dropped, and the Indian batsmen didn’t need a second push to leave the field.
With light continuously fading thereafter, there was little chance of play resuming. The Sri Lankans, having faced much despair on the field in the recent times, will be itching to get back out there again on the second morning, when the play is scheduled to start early at 9 am IST.

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