India vs Sri Lanka 2nd Test Day 2 Report: Murali Vijay makes most of Shikhar Dhawan’s absence with stylish 128
ndia vs Sri Lanka 2nd Test Day 2 Report: Murali Vijay makes most of Shikhar Dhawan’s absence with stylish 128 – From being the first-choice opener when he last played a Test in March to being the third in line after Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, stylish Murali Vijay has done all the things right to regain his designated place in the Indian 11.
Murali Vijay (AFP)
From being the first-choice opener when he last played a Test in March to being the third in line after Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, stylish Murali Vijay has done all the things right to regain his designated place in the Indian 11.
In the forced absence of Dhawan due to “personal reasons”, Vijay grabbed the opportunity to open again for India and made the most of the perfect batting conditions on the second day of the second Test here on Saturday. The 33-year-old batted for two full sessions and 35 minutes into the day’s final session to make 128 on his return to the Test 11 after warming the bench in the first Test in Kolkata last week and missing three previous Tests in Sri Lanka due to wrist injury.
Vijay’s 10th century in his 52nd Test, and his 209-run partnership with another batsman who also plays only Tests for the country, Cheteshwar Pujara (121 batting), took India to a commanding 312/2 at stumps for a lead of 107 runs against the struggling Sri Lankans, for whom only veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (1/45 in 28 overs) was tying down the Indian batsmen.
It is not easy to score a century straightaway on return to Test cricket, especially after one comes back from injury and surgery. But, the experience of Vijay and his determination to succeed at the highest level, considering that there is competition for his place with Rahul and Dhawan, has made him score yet another three-figure mark and give the think-tank the pleasant headache when Dhawan returns to the squad for the third and final Test in Delhi starting on December 2.
It was also a strong statement Vijay sent across that he ought to have been the first-choice opener straightaway on return and should not have been dropped from the 11 for the first Test as he went out of the Indian team due to injury and not on form. Now, considering that form has not deserted him as much as he has come back fully fit from injury, Vijay should be the automatic choice when India play overseas shortly.
He has the technique to play a long innings. He has shown it in the past and served a reminder on the day when he batted for more than five hours to make the most of the opportunity presented to him.
Vijay may have consumed a lot of deliveries in the initial phase of his knock, but then India were in no hurry to score either. He defended, presenting the face of the bat, while driving with elan anything that was pitched up and bowled stump-to-stump. He showed more intent to score than his partner Pujara, who was happy to bat long and punish only the loose deliveries.
In his anxiety to score runs, Vijay survived twice, once on 19 when a drive off Herath took the edge to forward short leg Sadeera Samarawickrama, who was late to react for the catch and also the subsequent run out chance. Again, on 61, after the Sri Lankans saw his penchant to drive, placed a short mid-on next to the non-striker only for the catch. However, Dilruwan Perera failed to grab a chance off Lahiru Gamage but not without making a valiant attempt.
Barring these two, Vijay was unstoppable. He swept the spinners, and reverse swept the off-spinner Perera, who was made to look very ordinary by both the Indian batsmen.
While the pace duo of Suranga Lakmal and Gamage, and Herath kept the Indians quiet in the morning first hour, in which only 32 runs were scored in 16 overs, runs began to flow freely with the introduction of Perera in the 29th over. The next hour until lunch yielded 54 runs in 15 runs. Perera was expensive that he gave away 117 runs in 21 overs at more than five-and-a-half runs an over, while the others went under four.
Just when it seemed a rare day when a Test match day would see one pair batting the entire day, Vijay fell to a sweep off a Herath full toss to be caught at short fine leg, ending his third double century stand in Tests with Pujara for the second wicket.
But, instead of the few thousands of spectators going silent at the fall of the Indian wicket, there was a huge cheer for the next man walking out to the middle, Virat Kohli.
Kohli’s arrival saw runs flowing freely, as he reached his 15th Test fifty in no time even as Pujara laboured his way to his 14th Test hundred, to 1,000 runs in this calendar year and looking solid for many more.