India vs Sri Lanka 2017, 1st Test: Suranga Lakmal's sensational spell rocks India
- At stumps, India were placed precariously at 17 for 3.
Amidst all the rain and grey clouds, amidst the peerless groundstaff and excellent drainage facility, on a day when only 11.5 overs were bowled, Eden Gardens did enough to enthrall the cricket fans, mind you, only cricket fans and not Indians.
On a green damp pitch, Kohli lost the toss and Chadimal salivated at the prospect of bowling first on a lively pitch.
Fast bowler Suranga Lakmal did not take much time to drive home the point that his captain had read the pitch perfectly as he pitched the very first ball of the match on a good length, the ball hit the seam and moved away just a touch, it also had bounce, it was a definition of a ball an opening batsman would have nightmares of.
Rahul was forced to play at it, the ball jumped on him, kissed the gloves and reared into the hands of wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella. Sri Lanka were pushovers, many had said, they were now sitting up in rapt attention after only a single ball.
The Indian team management has been very vocal about maintaining a continuity in their selection policy and rewarding Test regulars with their spots if they miss matches owing to fitness concerns. However, it was quite puzzling when Murali Vijay was benched in favour of Shikhar Dhawan.
Dhawan has been in sparkling form in whites, but this green pitch asked for patience and tenacity, and while it can be argued that batsmen too have to make their own move to negate the good balls by showing signs of aggression, but Dhawan's attempted drive to wide ball away from his body was ill-advised.
Lakmal threw the ball wide, Dhawan stayed put and flayed at it, the ball moved just a touch, the green tinge doing its bit again and the inside edge of the bat was taken and the stumps were rattled behind. Just the stroke one would never play in South Africa, just the stroke which costs a session, a match... a series!
Cheteshwar Pujara who came into the match after scoring a double ton and a 180 odd in his last two first-class appearances, but this pitch was a different beast, he kept getting beaten, kept defending, kept waiting for chances to score runs, was lucky to still be out there, but his technique did hold him in good stead.
Virat Kohli walked out to the applauds of a largely sparse crowd and was greeted by four slips and a gully. Lakmal pounded in and kept asking questions, no runs were scored off his bowling and he looked like picking up a wicket every ball.
Kohli looked circumspect, but then one ball pitched on off stump, jagged back and caught him on the crease as he looked to flick it away. Umpire Nigel Llong raised the dreaded finger, Kohli too raised his bat to review more in hope than any conviction.
Although the ball was only clipping the stumps, it was enough for him to take the long walk back, Lakmal's sensational day just got sweeter.
He sent down six overs, conceded no runs, picked up three wickets. He left India floundering along, only bad light could have saved the hosts and finally when the players left the Gardens, India were placed precariously at 17 for 3.
Rahane and Pujara were at the crease, their task cut out, the pitch will remain the same, Lakmal will pound in again, tomorrow!