GALLE: It seems the upcoming generation of cricketers representing Sri Lanka are vulnerable against spin of both kinds – leg-spin as well as off-spin.
In the last Test series it was the leg-spin of Yasir Shah that undid the Sri Lanka’s batting. The Pakistani leggie went onto capture 24 wickets and win the series for his country 2-1.
On Wednesday at the Galle International Stadium, Sri Lanka’s batsmen were again at the receiving end when Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin further exposed their weakness against spin by taking six wickets for 46 runs in what was his maiden Test appearance against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka opting to bat first failed to make use of the opportunity of winning the toss when they were bowled out for 183 with only skipper Angelo Mathews (64) appearing in his 50th Test match and Dinesh Chandimal (59) making any noteworthy contributions. Like Yasir, Ashwin was so accurate that he hardly left any room for the batsmen to make a mistake. In this aspect the Lankan batsmen had plenty and they paid the penalty for it.
They simply did not have an answer to Ashwin’s bowling or rather it was their poor judgment and technique that brought about their downfall. Off-spin is not alien to our batsmen and there was no reason for them to capitulate so meekly.
Kumar Sangakkara making his last appearance in Galle was accorded a loud reception with the lighting of firecrackers when he came to bat. But he lasted just 12 balls for five runs before providing Ashwin with the first of his half a dozen wickets.
The door to Ashwin’s success was opened by India’s new ball bowlers Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron who accounted for the two openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva to have Sri Lanka struggling at 15-2. It was the ideal time for Ashwin to make his appearance and Virat Kohli seized the opportunity to bring on his main spinner of the three they played in the Test.
Ashwin obliged immediately by getting Sangakkara’s wicket off the third ball he bowled and in an unchanged spell of seven overs before lunch also sent back Lahiru Thirimanne (15) and Jehan Mubarak (0) to have half the side out for 60.
Mathews and Chandimal set about rebuilding the innings with a stand of 79 but Ashwin returning for another spell (his third) not only separated them but went onto complete the demolition job by taking a further three wickets for 20 runs off 5.4 overs.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra added to the Lankan misery by dismissing Chandimal who went on the attack as he was running out of partners and sacrificed his wicket and Tharindu Kaushal (0) off successive deliveries. Ashwin brought the innings to an end by cutting short Rangana Herath’s cameo knock of 23 off 24 balls.
India lost the wickets of Lokesh Rahul (7) and Rohit Sharma (9) both falling lbw, but finished the day in a strong position at 128 for two wickets with Sikhar Dhawan (53) and Kohli (45) both looking ominous having figured in an unfinished partnership of exactly 100 off 153 balls . Dhawan had a life at 28 when Mathews dropped him at slip off Kaushal and how much that lapse could prove costly to Sri Lanka only time will tell.