Lakmal 6-6-0-3 tortures India in tough conditions

India v Sri Lanka, 1st test, Kolkata, 1st day November 16, 2017

India 17 for 3 (Lakmal 3-0) v Sri Lanka
and ball-by-ball details

Only 11.5 overs of cricket were possible in the first two sessions of the Kolkata Test, but they were 11.5 difficult overs for India, asked to bat on a damp green pitch under overcast skies. Suranga Lakmal made good use of the conditions to send back the openers and Virat Kohli without conceding a run in his six overs. If the impression that India had been thinking of South Africa even before finishing this series is correct, they were given a decent simulation with the ball seaming around quite a bit.

It was only the third Test in India since 2006 that a side winning toss had chosen to bowl. That decision was arrived at four hours after scheduled time with rain keeping the players indoors. With Lakmal running amok, India were lucky to avoid a more persistent examination thanks to further drizzle and deteriorating light.

All this time waiting for the game to begin and resume might make India rethink their opening strategy. M Vijay and KL Rahul had been stellar in the last home season, but an injury to Vijay opened the door for Shikhar Dhawan to barge in with two hundreds on the tour of Sri Lanka in July-August. India persisted with Dhawan and Rahul even with Vijay fit now, but Dhawan proceeded to play a loose drive to be bowled for 8. A cover drive away from the body is just the shot India might be advised against when they go to South Africa.

Before that, Rahul had got the perfect delivery to start the Test. Lakmal bowled it on a length, just outside off, making the batsman play. The seam movement from the juicy surface did the rest to take the edge. The golden duck ended Rahul's run of seven successive half-centuries in Test cricket.

Cheteshwar Pujara, at the other end, showed the discipline required on such a pitch, playing only two scoring shots in the 43 balls he faced. That he could do so was thanks in part to Lahiru Gamage, Lakmal's new-ball partner, who didn't make the batsmen play often enough. He was generally too short, and also provided width. Pujara used that to get his eye in, leaving balls alone studiously before he opened the mark with a soft edge past third slip off the 22nd ball he faced. Twenty-seven out of the 43 balls that Pujara faced came at the easier end.

Dhawan too cut the bad ball for four but, at the other end, against good bowling, and not to ignore the significance of intent on such pitches, he picked the wrong one to go hard at.

Kohli walked out to a nightmare delivery that seamed away from a fullish length. He played the line as opposed to following the movement, which helped him avoid the edge. Soon rain brought an early tea break, but when play resumed, Kohli got the one that seamed back in from a similar length. This time - having scored 0 off 10 balls, stuck at Lakmal's end all the while - he drove at it. A defensive shot would perhaps have produced an inside edge and prevented the lbw.

Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane didn't have to fight for too long before bad light brought an early end to an extraordinary day's Test cricket. Sri Lanka had gone into it with Dasun Shanaka, a seam-bowling allrounder, alongside two specialist quicks, a combination India could have chosen had they not rested Hardik Pandya keeping South Africa in mind. Who would have known back then that weather and the re-laid Kolkata surface would provide them preparation for South Africa during home Tests?

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