COLOMBOI: India buried Sri Lanka under a mountain of runs as they cantered to a comprehensive innings and 53-run victory in the second Test, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series here on Sunday.
The hosts, who put up their best batting show in the series so far were all-out for 386 in the second innings despite twin centuries from opener Dimuth Karunaratne (141) and No 3 Kusal Mendis (110).
Ravindra Jadeja (5/152 in 39 overs), after an indifferent final two sessions on the third day, found his rhythm and more importantly length back to inflict the maximum damage.
Once Karunaratne and former skipper Angelo Mathews (36) were dismissed by Jadeja within a space of five runs from each other, it was only a matter of time before India clinched the series.
Karunaratne and Mathews added 69 runs for the fifth wicket as Sri Lanka were 310 for four at one stage before a collapse saw the last six wickets going down for 76 runs.
India have now won back-to-back away Test series in the island nation having clinched the previous edition in 2015 by 2-1 margin. Interestingly, Kohli is the only India captain to have won two Test series in Sri Lanka.
The quality, or the lack of it, of the Sri Lankan team will give Virat Kohli and his boys a chance to complete a clean sweep in Pallekele (Kandy), where the the third Test starts on August 12.
Save Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, India have not had a chance to register an all-win record in an away series in any country.
Not a great believer in enforcing follow-on, skipper Kohli said that a lead of 440 runs convinced him to do so.
“The way the wicket behaved and how it was getting worse by the day and the lead of more than 440 prompted us to enforce the follow-on,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
While there was turn on offer and the pitch did deteriorate, but Karunaratne and Mendis, during their 191-run second wicket stand last evening, had shown stomach for a fight.
“At the international level, you expect teams to come and play like that (on Mendis and Karunaratne tons). They batted really well. You need to have those tough times to improve as cricketers. If you enjoy the hard moments, you enjoy the good moments as well. Never get complacent as a side – that’s important.”
However, after Sri Lanka were all out for 183 in the first innings in reply to India’s 622, it was always going to be a catch-up game for the hosts.
The Indian bowlers — especially the two spinners — were made to work much harder than their previous three innings in the Test matches so far.
Ravichandran Ashwin (2/132 in 37.5 overs), after a good first innings show, did not look half as effective. He, however, got the final wicket of the Sri Lankan second innings to end the match.
In the post-lunch session, it was Jadeja who hit the right areas, extracting sharp turn and bounce off the pitch.
Karunartane, after his 307-ball vigil, got a wicked delivery that jumped off his gloves with Ajinkya Rahane running behind the wicketkeeper to take the catch.
Mathews then got one that had both turn and bounce with Wriddhiman Saha giving a superb exhibition of glovework.
Dilruwan Perera (17) was then stumped as he tried to give Jadeja the charge.
The skipper was effusive in his praise for Saha.
“Four byes on that sort of pitch speaks of his (Saha’s) quality. He is definitely the best keeper in this format I will say. How agile he is! He is very safe behind the stumps,” Kohli stated.
The ninth five-wicket haul for Jadeja came when Dhananjaya De Silva edged one to Rahane at first-slip.
Niroshan Dickwella (31) threw his bat around before Hardik Pandya (2/31 in 15 overs) accounted for his wicket.
At the start, Karunaratne added 40 runs with nightwatchman Malinda Pushpakumara (16) for the third wicket.
The two continued to stonewall the Indian attack, and a few runs were added too. India struggled to make things happen as they failed to latch on to the half-chances offered by the nightwatchman.
The big moment of the session came in the 66th over when K L Rahul dropped Karunaratne (then on 95) at short leg off Jadeja, which didn’t prove costly in the long run.
The opener didn’t offer any more chances thereafter, reaching the three-figure mark in 224 balls.
India were then given a lucky break as Pushpakumara played a horrific reverse sweep off Ashwin in the 73rd over and was bowled, gifting his wicket after doing all the hard work.
It became a double blow as Jadeja had Dinesh Chandimal (2) caught at slip in the next over, with Rahane holding on to a sharp catch diving to his right.
The visitors took the second new ball as soon as it became available, but Karunaratne and Mathews played watchful cricket given the vitality of this passage of play.
India did bring on its pacers, Mohammed Shami (0-27) and Umesh Yadav (1-39), for short spells with the new ball, but they were unable to provide breakthroughs.
Sri Lanka crossed the 300-mark in the 90th over, with Karunaratne and Mathews bringing up their 50-partnership off 71 balls.
“We were outplayed with bat and the ball in the first innings. But I was happy with the way we played in the second innings. We just want to take positives from this game. Kusal and Dimuth played some really good cricket,” Sri Lanka captain Chandimal said.