Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s 211-run partnership for the fourth wicket pulled India out of brief turmoil to reach 344 runs for 3 at the end of the first day’s game at Colombo. Pujara marked his 50th Test with an unbeaten 128 runs while Rahane, too, scored his ninth Test century.
India 344/3 (Cheteshwar Pujara 128*, Ajinkya Rahane 103*, KL Rahul 57; Nuwan Pradeep 1-63) vs Sri Lanka
The stoic Rahul is back
If an injury or illness occurs in the middle of a purple patch, it is too hard for any cricketer to digest. In his short international career, KL Rahul, who has very rarely gone out of form, has faced injuries of various degrees of severity, which forced him to watch the games more from the sidelines than playing them the middle. He hit six half-centuries in seven innings against Australia in February-March but again underwent surgery on his left shoulder, missed the IPL, the Champions Trophy and the tour of the Caribbean. His comeback looked on good course as he scored a patient half-century in the warm-up game in Colombo but immediately fell ill ahead of the first Test in Galle, only to be ruled out of the match. But in the second match, after a getting chance ahead of Abhinav Mukund, he showed that his appetite for runs has not diminished a bit. The Karnataka batsman made good use of his feet to get to the pitch of the ball against the spinners. Moreover, even after Shikhar Dhawan’s dismissal, Rahul found way to get runs despite spinners operating more frequently with a much more attacking field set. Although he faced two jittery moments during his stay at the crease, he made sure that he equalled GR Vishwanath and Rahul Dravid’s record as the only Indians to hit six successive fifty-plus scores. He also went past of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, and Navjot Sidhu, who all scored five straight half-centuries in their respective Test careers.
Cheteshwar Pujara marks his 50th Test with a memorable hundred
The ongoing Test is Cheteshwar Pujara’s 50th Test appearance and coincidentally, it was at the venue where he emphatically stormed back into the reckoning after a quiet 2014. In the last home season where India hosted New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia, he scored three centuries and a double-hundred in the 13 Tests and kicked off this series in Sri Lanka with 153 in the Galle victory. If that was not enough to prove his worth as one of the best contemporary Test batsmen, he also played another typically robust innings to mark his 50th Test. The Saurashtra batsmen peppered his usual scoring areas - midwicket and extra cover - while also revealing his rarely used sweep shots. After bringing up his 50, he changed gears and became the fourth fastest Indian to reach 4000 Test runs. The 20-year-old also found an able ally in the form of Ajinkya Rahane, who made sure that India didn't sink further after Kohli's dismissal. Together, the duo adopted a slightly aggressive approach against the Sri Lankan spinners and made Dinesh Chandimal change his strategies.
Sri Lankan spinners begin impressively
Sri Lanka’s bowling attack came under a lot of flak after their wayward display in the first Test match as with the exception of Nuwan Pradeep, no one was able to contain the Indian batsmen. But it looked as though they had learnt from their mistakes during the first session of the second Test as the spinners maintained a constant line and length to trouble the Indian openers. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal also should be given credit for the way he made his bowling changes. After the openers’ dismissal, Chandimal made two changes which did not allow Virat Kohli to settle. Firstly, he gave Pradeep more overs to bowl in that period and positioned a slip to target Kohli’s bugbear. That worked in the hosts’ favour as Kohli edged a Rangana Herath delivery to Angelo Mathews to slip for 13. Further, the direction of wind also favoured the Lankan spinners as they managed to find enough support to drift the ball from the batsmen's' pads. But the Lankans couldn’t enjoy the benefit for a long period as the duo of Pujara and Rahane stitched an 211-run partnership to take India to 344/3 at the end of the first day.
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