We preview the second Test between India and Sri Lanka which gets underway on 24 November.
Inclement weather effectively got the better of the series opener in Kolkata, where India’s first innings left a lot to be desired – and Sri Lanka showed they are substantially stronger in Test match cricket than they are in limited-overs competition.
Five days of clear skies are predicted in Nagpur, leaving both teams with plenty of opportunity to take a vital lead in this three-match affair. India have to tweak their playing XI, while Sri Lanka will likely go unchanged.
India v Sri Lanka | 24 November – 28 November | Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium |
To Win Match
India 7/20 | Draw 7/2 | Sri Lanka 13/2
The hosts will be without Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who have ruled themselves out of selection due to personal reasons. Murali Vijay will probably replace Dhawan at the top of the order, while Kumar’s berth in the attack will likely by taken by Ishant Sharma. Vijay Shankar has been added to the squad, but he is surplus to playing XI requirements for the time being.
A green deck greeted all and sundry at Eden Gardens – and the same is expected for the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur. India wouldn’t traditionally prepare pitches in such a manner, but they’ve acknowledged they are effectively looking for game time on the type of tracks they will encounter during upcoming tours overseas, including South Africa.
Ajinkya Rahane’s double failure in Kolkata is a small concern. The talented middle order batsman has insisted he wants to evolve with more shots and different stroke play, but he needs to get the basics right before targeting such advances. A solid half-century – with no mess, no fuss – will do him and India the world of good.
While Virat Kohli has climbed the International Cricket Council rankings, Ravindra Jadeja has slipped – and has to justify his selection with bat or ball, if not both. Keeping him in an XI that already boasts the services of fellow all-rounder Ravinchandran Ashwin could be deemed excessive and unnecessary.
The Sri Lankans have never played the longest format of the international game in Nagpur, while India have only lost at Test at this ground once. Opting to bowl first again, if triumphant at the toss, must be Dinesh Chandimal’s priority. Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal were outstanding on the first morning in Kolkata – and should be able to operate well in tandem again.
The bowlers were let down by the batsmen in the series opener, but how ever you look at it, Sri Lanka are on a much better track than the last time they met India for a Test series. The lessons learnt then are being put into practice here – and the results are promising, if not entirely convincing.
Interim head coach Nic Pothas had enough to smile about after five days of taxing cricket in Kolkata. The sentiment – across the collective, not just a few individuals – is similar. Angelo Mathews’ return has been key. Mathews brings so much to the party in terms of experience and insight, not just runs.
Openers Sadeera Samarawickrama and Dimuth Karunaratne, though, have to afford Mathews and company a stable platform. The duo managed less than 40 runs across their combined four innings in the first Test. That number has to, at least, be quadrupled to vindicate the selectors’ faith in the current pairing at the top of the knock.
Verdict: India 7/20
Sri Lanka showed a lot of fight at Eden Gardens, despite really difficult circumstances. However, they won’t likely enjoy the same success they managed against Pakistan earlier this year – and India will take a series lead.