IND vs SL: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul 166-run stand makes up for first innings flop
Openers Rahul and Dhawan make up for first innings flops with 166-run stand against Lanka
India, shot out for a paltry 172 in a first innings, were an uplifting 171 for 1 at stumps on Day Four of the rain-hit opening Test, wiping off a 122-run deficit for a 49-run lead. Their hopes of forcing a come-from-behind victory were all but quashed by a belligerent Sri Lanka earlier in the day. The visitors, overnight 165 for four, added 129 runs and stretched their tenure to 40 minutes after lunch to take them to the shores of safety while giving them a shot at victory for themselves. Lokesh Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan nullified much of that possibility, the openers atoning for first innings failures with a partnership of 166. Rahul is batting on a 73, his 10th fifty while Dhawan fell just six short of what would have been his seventh century.
India's Shikhar Dhawan (right) and KL Rahul complete a run during the fourth day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/AFP
In the morning, the script had unfolded as the hosts would have wanted before Rangana Herath butted in with 67 that saw him occupy the crease for nearly two hours. Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar hit the right areas of a wicket that lost much of its viciousness but still had appreciable movement and bounce. The Lankans found some quick runs initially but lost three wickets in successive overs to be 201 for seven. With the lead just 29 and only the tail to deal with, the Indians would have been smacking their lips at that stage. Shami drew first blood, having the left-handed Dickwella edge one to Virat Kohli at second slip. Kumar removed Dasun Shanaka in the next over before Shami came back to account for skipper Dinesh Chandimal, the other overnight batsman. Left-arm spinner Herath, who is nearing 40, put together 46 for the ninth wicket with Suranga Lakmal with the seamers going off the boil somewhat. Beaten on several occasions but refusing to abandon his aggressive intent, Herath was finally caught at deep backward point as he square-cut Bhuvneshwar Kumar. By then, Sri Lanka had snuggled onto a cushion of comfort.
"Yes, we could have bowled better [at that stage]," Kumar said after the day's play, adding that they may have been trying too hard on a helpful wicket. "We could've been a little more patient." With Shami, who had left the field at stumps on Saturday with cramps, mopping things up by having Lakmal drag one onto the wicket, it was one of those rare instances when all 10 wickets fell to seam-up bowlers. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, sending down just nine overs between them, went wicketless. "That's good for a change," quipped Kumar, who was all praise for Shami and Dhawan, who helped step up the scoring towards the end of the day.
Rahul and Dhawan had a few anxious moments but, with the Sri Lankan suddenly looking ordinary on the first sunny day of the Test, they were soon into their stride. Dhawan, who had made a cautious start, opened up to hit 11 boundaries and a couple of sixes. He fell stepping out to Shanaka for a lofted drive over the bowler's head, his DRS call revealing a faint edge as he went. His innings may well have planted fresh hopes in Team India. "The team management will have the plans, and we'll play accordingly tomorrow. Shikhar has put us in a good position" said Kumar when asked whether the match was headed for a drab draw. Team India may well want to infuse life on the last day.
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