India report card: Insatiable Virat, irreplaceable Vijay, inspirational Shami
A report card on the players who featured in India’s 1-0 series win over Sri Lanka.
Virat Kohli – M 3 I 5 Runs 610 HS 243 Avg 152.50 100×3 50×1
Atoned for his first-inning duck in the first Test with an assuredly exceptional unbeaten 104 in the second as wickets fell around him following an opening stand of 166, an innings that changed the complexion of the final day and the Test, as Sri Lanka were pushed onto the back foot. This was a batsman in control of his skills on a tricky surface, showing who was boss. Made it large in Nagpur, with a match-winning 213, and then batted wonderfully for 243 at the Kotla. A 300 looked on the cards until – during a controversial period of play in smoggy Delhi – he played around a skidder from Lakshan Sandakan. Caught well in Kolkata, taking two very sharp catches at second slip, but dropped an easy catch in Delhi. Questions were asked if he declared too late in the last Test, but the answer is no.
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Murali Vijay – M 2 I 3 Runs 292 HS 155 Avg 97.33 100×2
The biggest gain for India in an otherwise ho-hum series was getting their most successful and reliable opener of the past five years back to Test match feel. Vijay ended an eight-month absence with a hassle-free 128 in Nagpur, when Shikhar Dhawan’s absence gave him a chance at the top. That won him a place ahead of KL Rahul in Delhi, where he bedded down for a very fine 155 in the first innings. Failed in the second with a loose stroke. In both his hundreds, Vijay guided another centurion in a 200-plus alliance. This was the Vijay India had built so much of their success on over the past four years, and the opener who could prove hugely influential in South Africa next month.
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Rohit Sharma – M 2 I 3 Runs 217 HS 102* Avg 217 100×1 50×2
Returned to the XI in Nagpur, his first Test since October 2016, when India played five bowlers. Looked comfortable – walking in at 410/4 surely eased the nerves – and purred to an unbeaten 102 for his first century since his debut series in November 2013. In Delhi, had few hassles in getting to 65 before, one delivery before lunch on day two, he misread Sandakan’s turn. In the second dig, Rohit picked up an unbeaten 50 off 49 balls to force a declaration with a lead of 409. Dropped an easy catch at second slip in Delhi, denying Ishant Sharma the wicket of Angelo Mathews on 98 with the first delivery bowled with the new ball. A fine series with the bat, but Rohit will know, however, that the next time India go back to six bowlers, he will likely be back to the bench.
Mohammed Shami – M 2 Overs 77 Wkts 9 BB 4/100 Avg 29.88 SR 51.3
A treat to watch at Eden Gardens, where he repeatedly attacked the batsmen and chipped in with handy innings of 24 and 12. His six wickets there were clinical to India nearly pulling off victory. Missed out in Nagpur and returned for the Kotla Test where he bowled a fast and incisive opening spell on day two which had the Sri Lankans fending. On the fourth evening, removed Sadeera Samarawickrama with a ripper, perhaps the best short ball that produced a wicket this series. Had catches put down in both Tests he played, both early in a spell. Put that behind him to run in fast and bowl the quickest of all India’s pacers. A real threat to South Africa come January 5.
Cheteshwar Pujara – M 3 I 5 Runs 289 HS 143 Avg 57.80 100×1 50×1
Shored up India’s first innings in Kolkata brilliantly with 52, then got a snorter in the second innings on 22. In Nagpur, with his most successful partner Murali Vijay, Pujara put India on course for a match-winning innings – and a huge one at that – with a stand worth 209. Made 23 in the first innings of the Delhi Test before turning a short ball off the hips to leg slip, then 49 as India pressed on for a huge lead in the second. Held a very fine catch in the slips, a position he is now starting to make his own.
Wriddhiman Saha – M 3 Runs 44 HS 29 Avg 22 Cts 9
Near flawless wicketkeeping. Conceded nine byes in 477.4 overs. The one blemish was the missed stumping off Ravindra Jadeja in the dying stages of the Kotla Test, when an arm ball hit him in the rib. The ripper from Jadeja on day three that took an under-edge off Angelo Mathews’ bat and flew between Saha’s legs can be excused, because it stayed low. Got only two proper chances to bat, both at Eden Gardens. In the first innings, when Sri Lanka’s pace bowlers were running wild, Saha’s 83-ball 29 helped Pujara avert a crisis and proved the second-highest score of India’s 172. On the final day, when the requirement was to bat out time, and on a surface still offering aid to the seamers, Saha drove on the rise to cover for just 5 with India ahead by 159 but with three wickets left. Had no role to play as a batsman thereafter, with his remaining two unbeaten innings of 1 and 9 coming just before declarations in Nagpur and Delhi after those before him had plundered runs.
Ishant Sharma – M 2 Overs 68.3 Wkts 8 BB 3/37 Avg 26.25 SR 51.3
In Nagpur, his first Test since August 2015, Ishant reminded viewers what he can do when in proper rhythm. His dismissals of Sri Lankan opener Sadeera Samarawickrama gave him plenty of joy, but it was the extraction of the well-embedded Dimuth Karunaratne for 51 in the first innings that proved far more valuable. Ishant’s full range was on view when on the final day he had Niroshan Dickwella fending a lifter to second slip. At home in Delhi, started well on day two with a strong first spell and on day three saw a catch put down, immediately after the new ball was taken, when Mathews on on 98. Still, finished strong with three wickets from 29.3 solid overs. Wicketless in the second innings.
Remains India’s fourth pace bowler, but may have done given chances of playing in South Africa a big boost.
R Ashwin – M 3 Overs 123.4 Wkts 12 BB 4/63 Avg 29.91 SR 61.8
India’s leading wicket-taker, but a strange sort of series. Played a fringe role at Eden Gardens, where wet conditions limited his role to eight overs and two ordinary shots with the bat added to an utterly underwhelming all-round performance. Became the fastest to 300 wickets with eight wickets in Nagpur, including 4/63 on the final day. At the Kotla, was not near top form and dropped a firmly struck return catch on the final day, which should have been taken especially in light of fellow offspinner Nathan Lyon’s diving screamer this week.
Ravindra Jadeja – M 3 Overs 117 Wkts 10 BB 3/56 Avg 25.90 SR 70.2
Second in the wickets column with 10. A solitary over in Kolkata, owing to the utterly seam-friendly conditions. With the bat, helped get the total to 172 with a plucky 22, then a dour 9 in the second before being undone by extra bounce. Had more success in Nagpur, taking three big wickets in the first innings and two in the second to constantly pose a threat. In Delhi, had match figures of 5/167 from 83 overs and looked the better of India’s two spinners by a mile in terms of chances created – he had a catch dropped and a stumping missed, too – but the no-ball that gave Chandimal a life on day five added to India’s missed opportunities in making it 2-0.
Shikhar Dhawan – M 2 I 4 Runs 192 HS 94 Avg 48 50×2
Began poorly in Kolkata, with a hard-handed drive in the first innings that ricocheted onto the stumps, but took the surface out of the equation in the second with 94 off 116 balls, featuring 11 fours and two sixes. Skipped Nagpur with personal reasons, returned in Delhi and in the second innings missed out on a hundred that was there for the taking, again. In both innings of that Test, Dhawan was out to imperious shots. Dropped the two catches that came his way in the series, both in the slips. Should be a starter in South Africa, but has a lot of hard work ahead.
Umesh Yadav – M 2 Overs 50 Wkts 5 BB 2/30 Avg 35.40 SR 60
Had catches put down, yet looked the weakest of India’s pace quartet. Bowled a lively spell on the fourth day in Kolkata to separate the well-set Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews, then trapped Mathews lbw on the fifth evening, but signs of old began to creep into Umesh’s bowling. His pace was down and there weren’t enough genuine wicket-taking deliveries. Wicketless in the first innings in Nagpur, then claimed two easy wickets as Sri Lanka’s batsmen combusted on day five.
KL Rahul – M 2 I 3 Runs 86 HS 79 Avg 28.66 50×1
Continues to frustrate. Out first ball of the first Test, then a polished 79 in the second innings until he missed an in-cutter. Failed in Nagpur, where he played away from the body in the fourth over in India’s only innings. Made way for Dhawan in Delhi, and definitely is India’s third opener in South Africa.
Ajinkya Rahane – M 2 I 5 Runs 17 HS 10 Avg 3.40
A very, very sorry series for Rahane. A poor outing at Eden Gardens, 4 and 0, followed by 2 in Nagpur on the same surface on which Vijay, Pujara, Kohli and Rohit grabbed hundreds. Really should have cashed in on that chance, having taken guard with India 399/3 in their only innings. Instead, he cut Dilruwan Perera to point. At the Kotla, fell to spin cheaply in both innings, first misreading Lakshan Sandakan and then chipping Perera to long-on after Kohli sent him up to No 3. Was slow to react at leg gully when Dinesh Chandimal, on 43 in Sri Lanka’s first innings in Delhi, glanced one off the ribs. The only real concern for India ahead of South Africa. Could Rohit take Rahane’s place in the XI when Hardik Pandya returns?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – M 1 Overs 38 Wkts 8 BB 4/8 Avg 12 SR 28.5
Four wickets in Sri Lanka’s first innings in Kolkata, displaying his full range of skills. Two wickets in a superb opening spell of 7-5-3-2 on the final day that left Sri Lanka heaving. Man of the Match. Then went away to get married.