The second test of India’s series against Sri Lanka has been memorable for more than one reason. It was a welcome relief to see Indians levelling the series after a dreadfully embarrassing first Test defeat.
It also bid farewell to one of the true legends of the game, Kumar Sangakkara.
India started the Test series on a redefined mission under the newly appointed Captain Virat Kohli. Expectations were high including a change in strategy, particularly in adopting an aggressive and full bowling attack capable of taking 20 wickets, backed by a dominating batting performance by the top order batsmen.
India did all that and embarrassed Sri Lanka early on day 1 of the series.
After toppling Sri Lanka for a mere 163, India finished the opening day with 128/2.
Kohli and opener Shikhar Dhawan notched up tons on day 2 to give India a massive 193 run lead and maintain dominance.
Indian bowlers then reduced the opponents to 95/5 en route to what would have been a comfortable victory. It looked like a perfect Test for India when, progressively through day 3, memories flashed of India’s most recent test losses in Auckland and Adelaide where India essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Indian bowlers allowed the Sri Lankan tail to give support to centurion Dinesh Chandimal and in the process set India a tricky fourth innings target of 176 on a spinner’s wicket.
A few close calls saved Dinesh Chandimal but India has only itself to blame for this and the refusal by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to use the Decision Review System.
On day 4, Dhawan faced 35 dot balls before inside-edging one of them for an accidental boundary. This overprotective approach by the batsmen helped spinner Rangana Herath pick up seven wickets to hand the visitors a cruel 63 run defeat.
It is remarkable that India dominated seven session to Sri Lanka’s three and somehow lost.
Test recall Harbhajan Singh was the only spinner to struggle, suggesting that he may have lost his overrated effectiveness. He was rightly dropped for the second, signalling a reactive strategy shift by Kohli from a more tolerant MS Dhoni style.
Dhawan returned home with a sore back making way for Murali Vijay to return to the playing eleven for the second encounter.
After an early hiccup, India aggregated to great first innings total, led by talented youngster Lokesh Rahul who picked up his second century in four matches.
Sri Lankans were evenly poised at 283/5 before Amit Mishra brought the innings to a hasty finish. Ajinkya Rahane’s ton, coming in at the important number three slot, enabled India to get a competitive 413 for victory.
Sri Lanka were bundled out cheaply for 134 courtesy of a determined and aggressive bowling attack by Ravichandran Ashwin, who took his tally from two games to 17 wickets.
Despite India’s win, Ajinkya Rahane’s promotion to number three at the expense of Rohit Sharma’s demotion to number five is a keen talking point.
It is the first time in 16 years that a number 3 Indian batsman has scored a ton in Sri Lanka.
Kohli fittingly pointed out the importance of taking 20 wickets, rather than scoring hundreds.
It was a great victory for India, their first in 10 matches.
This test saw Kumar Sangakkara hang up his gloves after a splendid 15-year career.
He finished with a Test average above that of Sachin Tendulkar and has been the rock of the Sri Lankan batting line-up.
In his humble farewell speech, he said that all records and achievements came second to his family and their unconditional love.
Kumar Sangakkara: Goodbye is a nasty word\