Why Indian bowlers need to set Saturday's performance as a template going forward
India finished Day 3 of the second Test on a strong note at 70 for 1 and extended their lead to 157 runs. One of the major reasons why the team finds itself in a position to call shots in the match is because of a terrific comeback by its bowlers, who stepped up to the plate, particularly from the second session onwards.
Sri Lanka held the aces in the game after the opening session, where they scored 84 runs without losing any wickets. Now for a common viewer, such a reading would indicate that the bowling team seemed off-colour and that they weren't hitting the right lengths consistently.
But in reality, it needs to be said the bowling unit was a bit unlucky to have gone without tasting any success at lunch, particularly Umesh Yadav, who like in the evening session on Friday, was proving to be difficult to handle for the Sri Lankan batsman on a wicket that didn't have a lot of help for the quicker bowlers.
The right-arm pacer beat the bat of the batsman on quite a few occasions and was extremely unfortunate to have not picked up any wickets. If Yadav seemed in good form in the fast bowlers’ section, Amit Mishra and R Ashwin were equally impressive in the spinning department – especially the former, who was getting sufficient purchase from the wicket to go past the outside edge of the bat on more than one occasion.
Hitting hard with the new ball
India took the new ball just before the lunch interval and after the break, Ishant Sharma began poorly, going for 3 consecutive fours of Angelo Mathews, but the bowlers fought back very well after that, by giving away just 3 runs off the next 12 balls, thereby keeping the batsman quiet.
That pressure finally paid off as the 13th ball produced the much-needed breakthrough as Lahiru Thirimanne edged one off Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha did the rest behind the stumps. India persisted with the same tactic with the new batsman Dinesh Chandimal, who was out for 9 off 19 balls, caught by KL Rahul in the slips, thereby giving Sharma and India their second wicket of the day.
India followed the same philosophy in the case of the lower-middle order as well and the results were there for everyone to see- From 224 for 3 Sri Lanka fell to 306 all out, thereby handing the visitors a handy lead of 87 runs.
Now there were 2 things that as an Indian cricket fan it was extremely heartening to see:
1.The bowlers adopted the old-fashioned tactic of putting pressure on the batsman, by bowling many dot balls and not letting him play freely.
2.The bowlers bowled according to the field that was given to them by skipper Virat Kohli.
Several times in the past under MS Dhoni’s captaincy, one observed that the bowlers would bowl 2 or 3 balls in an over not according to the field provided to them which would allow the batsman to score runs freely, thereby resulting in failure to maintain substantial pressure on them.
But there was nothing of that sort observed on Saturday. The bowlers kept a tight line just outside the off-stump and put the pressure on the batsman. They also seemed to have better plans in place, and unlike previously, showed more patience. These virtues eventually paid off and they were rewarded with the desired results.
The performance of the bowlers has put India in control of the match and if they don't repeat the same mistakes of Galle, then we could go into the third Test looking to win our first series in the emerald island since 1993.