Sri Lanka’s mediocre bowling attack and Asela Gunaratne gifting Dhawan a life on 31 can take nothing away from his scintillating knock. He cut, he pulled, he drove and he flicked with equal elan. More importantly, he picked the singles whenever the Sri Lankan bowlers bowled a decent delivery to ensure that the hosts could never really pile the pressure. With Cheteshwar Pujara (144) providing the solidarity from one end, it almost looked like Dhawan had the license to kill as the two put on 253 for the second wicket after Abhinav Mukund once again failed to grab the opportunity at the top, managing just 12 on a wicket which offered nothing to the bowlers.
At stumps, it was Ajinkya Rahane (39) giving Pujara company with Nuwan Pradeep returning with the best figures for Sri Lanka (3/64). India’s run-rate did dip once Pradeep sent back Dhawan and Virat Kohli (3) on either side of the tea break, but with Pujara looking to camp at the crease, there was no way that India would lose the advantage grabbed in the first two sessions by Dhawan.
In fact, Dhawan beat India’s most prolific opener Virender Sehwag on Wednesday as he hit 111 runs in the post lunch session. Sehwag had managed to score 108 against South Africa in Chennai in 2008 and 109 against Pakistan in Lahore in 2006. Interestingly, the record for most runs for India in the second session belonged to Polly Umrigar for scoring 110 runs against West Indies at the Port of Spain in 1962.
The beauty of Dhawan’s innings on Wednesday had to be the ease with which he moved in the crease. While he was decisive with his footwork against the pacers, he was quick to jump down the track every time the spinners came on to bowl.
In fact, Dhawan’s footwork had the precision of a surgeon and even the experienced Sri Lanka stand-in skipper Rangana Herath couldn’t stop the flow of runs as Dhawan would first step down the track and hit Herath on the full and then hold back and wait for the left-arm spinner to pitch it short so that he could bring out the cut. Herath ended the day with an economy rate of 3.83, after going over 4 in the first two sessions of the day.
Pujara on the other hand look unperturbed as he went about his job, picking the singles and doubles and pouncing on the bad deliveries. In fact, even though he looked like a slow coach in front of the swashbuckling Dhawan, Pujara hit his 16th fifty of his career off 80 balls. In fact, Dhawan looked to be batting in a different zone altogether as only Stan McCabe (127), Wally Hammond (150) and Denis Compton (173) have scored more runs than Dhawan (126) in the second session of a day’s play.
Such was Dhawan’s domination that the Lankans would rue Gunaratne dropping him at second slip when the left-hander edged Lahira Kumara trying to drive the pacer on the up. Not only did Gunaratne drop the sitter, he also ended up fracturing his left thumb and will no longer take part in the Galle Test.
There were just two phases in the whole day when the Lankans held the edge but failed to grab the opportunity. While the first one came when Dhawan was dropped, the second came after Kohli was dimissed by Pradeep as Dickwella completed a good catch down the leg side.
While the umpire had initially given it not out, Herath went for a review and replays showed a clear knick as the ball landed in Dickwella’s gloves. With Rahane known to be a shaky starter, it was the perfect chance for Herath’s boys to get back into the game. But they failed to do that and let the moment slip and the end result was Rahane settling down to play perfect fiddle to Pujara who looks set to trouble the Lankan bowlers again when the umpires call play on the second morning.
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First Published: July 26, 2017, 5:32 PM IST