Vijay, Pujara grind Sri Lanka into Nagpur dust

India 185 for 1 (Vijay 106*, Pujara 71*) trail Sri Lanka 205 by 20 runs
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M Vijay celebrates his 10th Test century © ICC

That safe, warm, fuzzy, home-like feeling was back for India as their two most valuable batsmen in recent times reunited to keep others blissfully unaware of any dangers there might have been of the new ball or the fresh bowlers or scoreboard pressure. That M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, now the second-most prolific second-wicket pair for India, would grind the Sri Lankan bowling was predictable, but it wasn’t as straightforward as expected. Sri Lanka tested India at the start of both the sessions, their front three bowlers arguably did better than they did in Kolkata, but Vijay and Pujara preyed successfully on the other two, forcing the main bowlers to come back for new spells sooner than they would have liked, and then milking them.

Dasun Shanaka and Dilruwan Perera released all the pressure built on the pair as the first 18 overs of the day went for just 36 runs. Between them, Shanaka and Dilruwan conceded 82 in their 19 overs. They had bowled just nine of the first 54 overs, which meant Dinesh Chandimal had to ask Suranga Lakmal, Rangana Herath and Lahiru Gamage to keep coming back. The overs in the legs showed when Lakmal went for 21 in four overs in his mid-afternoon spell despite reverse swing on offer.

The loose balls were almost absent in the first hour of the day. In particular, Vijay, making a comeback into the Test side, had to endure a testing time. As openers do, he needed a little bit of luck going his way, but his discipline otherwise was good. Pujara, at the other end, hardly made an error.

Forced to defend, defend and defend, Vijay looked to manufacture a shot. He was 19 off 60 when he skipped down to Herath, got an inside edge to offer a half chance for a catch at short leg and also a full chance for a run-out because he had stepped out too far. Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, who seemed to have left his station to attempt a rebound off the short leg’s body, could have completed the run-out had he stayed put. As it turned out, a direct hit was needed, and Sadeera Samarawickrama missed from short leg.

In the next over, Vijay bat-padded a short-arm pull, but wide of short leg. Three overs later, Herath played with his inside and outside edges without creating a chance. Two overs later, Vijay fended at a short ball but the leading edge fell short of point. All this happened during a spell of four maiden overs, which was broken not with a rash stroke – as the Sri Lanka batsmen did on day one – but with a single to deepish mid-on. The introduction of Shanaka brought two cover-driven boundaries for Vijay. Dilruwan began with a plum half-volley, which got dispatched too.

Fifty runs came in the next 13 overs, which took India to lunch. False strokes almost went out of India’s game, and the field looked prone. There was another concerted effort from Sri Lanka after lunch but another 26-ball barren spell was broken calmly by singles from these calm batsmen.

As the mileage grew in those legs, the intensity dipped, the run rate increased and the milestones began to arrive. After the tough start, Vijay scored 80 off the last 108 balls he faced even as Pujara maintained a more moderate acceleration. Vijay brought up his 10th hundred, Pujara his 17th half-century, the pair its 10th hundred together, and neither of them looked sated just yet.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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