Rarely does it happen in Test cricket that a team loses after dominating for nearly three-and-a-half days. The fact that India did at Galle is a clear illustration of how unbelievably things turned around in the first Test. Sri Lanka, having been on the backfoot for the better part of the Test, pulled off a win, and quite emphatically at that in the end. The Indians were favourites going into the last day in spite of Dinesh Chandimal’s heroics the previous day. But, the manner in which the visitors succumbed on Independence Day, it was clearly a day to forget for India, on cricketing terms.
Two factors cost India the Test they seemed all set to win. First was of course the Chandimal factor. When he came in to bat, Sri Lanka still needed close to hundred to make India bat again, leave alone winning the Test. However, India still allowed the game to get away from them, which is what will disappoint them the most. The partnership between Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne began as an afterthought of sorts, but ended up being the start of something spectacular. The turnaround was another proof of how unpredictable even Tests can be.
While full credit must go to Chandimal for his game-changing effort, it will still go down in history as a match India lost rather than Sri Lanka won. The Indians had the hosts completely on the mat on day three. How they allowed the game to drift from that point is really incomprehensible. The likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra, who seemed unplayable until then, looked completely at sea when Chandimal took the attack to them. About the pacers, the less said the better. They just could not do the basics right to build the requisite pressure.
If India’s bowling performance in the second innings was poor, their batting effort was even more lethargic. Even if one takes into account the fact that the pitch was a turning beauty, India still should have done better as they are used to playing on turning tracks back home. On days when they put up performances like these, one wonders whether the ‘Indians being good players of spin theory’ is actually myth. The manner in which Rohit Sharma was dismissed completely missing a spinning delivery while playing defensive, was symbolic of India’s woes. They were quite simply clueless.
The Indian batsmen ought to have shown better application at the crease. Instead, they were jittery, and the manner in which they batted, it seemed that they did not believe they could chase down the target. The approach was quite in contrast to skipper Virat Kohli’s aggressive talk. Of course, India couldn’t afford to be reckless, but by being over-defensive, they allowed Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal to get on top. Once that happened, India were always going to find it difficult to get out of jail.
--By A Cricket Analyst