Sri Lanka vs India | Thursday 20 August - Monday 24 August | Colombo (PSS) | 06:30
India’s much-hyped brand of fearless cricket was entirely unapparent in their shocking loss to Sri Lanka in the first Test. Having dominated the match for almost three and a half days, India were punished for their indecision against the Sri Lankan spinners and crumbled in a tentative display of nervy batting. In contrast, Sri Lanka were bundled out cheaply in the first innings before a lower-order resurgence set India a tricky chase. In essence, it was the approach to the second innings that set the sides apart, but India will feel aggrieved with a few ordinary umpiring decisions that would certainly have impacted the match in their favour had they been called correctly.
To Win Match
Sri Lanka 23/10
Having allowed Pakistan to chase down 377 in a recent Test match, Sri Lanka were back to their trademark defence of a low target in Galle. The home side were practically down and out after the first three days and an Indian victory seemed a mere matter of time. However, an exemplary innings from Dinesh Chandimal, in which the Sri Lankan ‘keeper shepherded the tail, sparked a revival. Chandimal’s 162 not out was instrumental in giving the Sri Lankan bowlers a total to work with on a turning pitch. Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal duly obliged, applying a stranglehold to the Indian second innings with unerringly accurate deliveries that backed the tourists into a corner. Herath finished with seven wickets, Kaushal three, to dismiss India for 112, their lowest Test total against Sri Lanka and 63 runs short of the target. This will be an emotional few days in Colombo as this Test marks the end of Kumar Sangakkara’s illustrious international career. The tributes will be out in full force during the match and lead up and I wouldn’t bet against Sangakkara rising to the occasion with at least one innings of substance.
Virat Kohli is still searching for his first win as Test captain as India folded for their lowest Test total against Sri Lanka. The Indian batting was tentative and fearful in the face of the Sri Lankan spin onslaught and many pundits have expressed disgust at the degeneration of India’s ability to play quality spinners. However, before their second innings began they were made to rue their collective stance on DRS as umpiring calls that they could have, and would have, challenged, went against them. Sri Lanka then opted to attack and India’s bowlers fell flat and lacked control. Harbhajan was unimpressive and the quicks were unable to harness the reverse swing on offer. Ravi Ashwin was a finished the match with a ten-wicket haul and was by far the best in the Indian attack. Stuart Binny has been called up to the squad and may replace Harbhajan on a pitch that could well offer a bit more to the seamers. Shikhar Dhawan is set to miss the rest of the series with a fractured hand and India will await the fitness of Murali Vijay as his replacement at the top of the order.
Sri Lanka secured their first Test win at the P Sara Oval in five years with a seven-wicket over Pakistan in June. The hosts had lost the previous three Tests played at the ground since 2010. However, prior to their string of losses they have been unbeaten at the ground since 2002 and had recorded five straight Test wins. Although the seamers may benefit from the change of ground, as the Test progresses the spinners will once again have an important part to play. Once again, rain is scheduled for every day of the match.
VERDICT: Sri Lanka 23/10
The draw is once again the short price and this is entirely understandable given the weather reports. However, the reports were wrong last time out and the match was completed with ease. Given the unreliability of rain during the monsoon season, I will avoid tipping a draw again. Instead, Sri Lanka certainly offered enough to get excited about. Once they had some sort of momentum in the Test match they never let it go. I’m tipping them to spin their way to a series victory and send Sangakkara off in style.