It was another full day of action at the Eden Gardens between India and Sri Lanka in the first Test – one in which momentum swung back and forth between the two sides, before firmly settling down in the middle, making the most likely result a draw.
Indian fast bowlers shared all 10 wickets between them for the first time in a home Test since 1983 but that was not before Rangana Herath, the wily old Lankan legend, made up for his lack of contribution with the ball by scoring a gritty 67.
That knock led a lower-order fightback by the visitors, giving them a handy 122-run lead and, at that point, seemingly ruling out a win for India. KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan then went ahead and batted with great freedom, scoring at over four runs per over, to give India a 49-run lead at the end of the day.
Here are the top talking points from the fourth day of the first Test:
When Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami brought India back into the game with a fine spell of fast bowling – taking three wickets in 10 balls to reduce Sri Lanka to 201/7 – India had a genuine chance of forcing a result. They just had to clean up the tail. But, easier said than done. The visitors would go on to bat for nearly 30 more overs.
A big reason for that was Umesh Yadav’s lack of support to his fellow pacers.
It was clear that the three fast bowlers would do bulk of the bowling in the match but Yadav’s tendency to concede a boundary almost every over due to poor line and length meant Kohli did not have the back up for his best two pacers.
Umesh Yadav’s overs on day four went like this, in terms of runs conceded: 7, 1, 5 (4 byes, thanks to a wild bouncer) 9, 1, 5, 5. That’s 33 runs in 7 overs, but more importantly, a boundary conceded in all but two of those overs. Kohli was left to depend on Shami and Bhuvneshwar to come back with the second new ball and clean up the tail.
His pitch-map tells a story.
DRS drama again
Ah, how we missed those days of DRS controversies.
Dilruwan Perera brought back memories of that infamous DRS-gate during the India vs Australia series. Steve Smith’s momentary “brain fade” to look at his dressing room before reviewing an LBW decision angered Virat Kohli and the Indian management to no end. Nigel Llong, the umpire then, promptly told Smith that he lost the right to review the moment he did that.
However, it was the same umpire on Sunday who allowed Dilruwan Perera to review after he turned around, walking back towards his dressing room. Now, the camera caught Perera looking towards the dressing room, but there is no evidence of the support staff signalling him anything. But the very fact that he turned to the pavilion, before turning back to the umpire asking for a review, should have meant that the umpires – strictly by the rule book – should have denied it.
Now, Sri Lanka have said there were no attempts to deliver a message from dressing room, but even if it was a simple ‘we have a review left, go for it’ signal, it is still against the rules.
Having said all that, Perera got the right decision at the end, with hawkeye (perhaps surprisingly) showing the impact was outside off stump. But, as we have been repeatedly told, the purpose of DRS is eliminate the howlers and this was not. To the naked eye, it looked like a perfectly good decision. What this means, however, is there needs to be a discussion on what constitutes valid DRS protocol.
Sri Lanka’s pedestrian bowling attack
The green top that welcomed the visitors in the first innings had masked the problems they had in their bowling lineup. Even in the first innings, Suranga Lakmal’s brilliant spell was the only one of genuine quality – the rest of the bowlers were made to look good by the conditions.
With Lakmal able to bowl only two overs in the second session due to a niggle, their lack of quality was exposed by the stroke-making brilliance of Rahul and Dhawan on a wicket that’s now baked dry by the heat.
Lahiru Gamage kept offering up boundary balls to the Indian batsmen, going for 47 runs in his nine overs. Dasun Shanaka did not have the pace to trouble them, while Dilruwan Perera did not have enough help from the surface. While Rangana Herath’s quality is unquestionable, Dhawan cleverly went after him from the word go, knowing if he could bat the left-arm spinner out of the attack, Chandimal has precious few options left with him. And that’s exactly what happened, with Herath conceding 25 in his three overs, with two sixes from Dhawan’s blade.
For the best part of those last two sessions, the gulf in quality between the two sides was a familiar chasm – one that was evident in the Test series earlier this year.