Bose and Powar share honours as Indians dominate
A couple of understudies took centre-stage on the opening day of the tour match at Grace Road, allowing the Indians to gain the upper hand against Sri Lanka A. A combination of persistent bowling and poor shot selection enabled Ranadeb Bose and Ramesh Powar to grab nine wickets between them, restricting the Sri Lankans to 266 in conditions that were good for batting. The Indian batsmen built on the advantage, ending the day on 25 for 1.
Mullets aren't associated with disciplined medium-pacers who know their limitations and paunches aren't encouraged in the fitness-centric world of modern-day sport but Bose and Powar defied such notions to turn in effective spells. While Bose broke the back of the Sri Lankan batting, snaffling three wickets in a six over spell either side of lunch, Powar ran rings around the tail. Both overshadowed half-centuries from Michael Vandort and Thilan Samaraweera, batsmen who gave it away after being well set.
Neither Bose nor Powar might feature in the Oval Test but their effort, on a pitch that favoured the batsmen, will give the team management plenty of cheer. However, with minor concerns over Sreesanth's attitude and Anil Kumble's effectiveness, both did enough to stake their claims. Three of Powar's wickets were tailenders but he showed the heart to flight the ball all day, despite bowling to a set of batsmen familiar with handling quality spin.
Playing just his second match of the tour, Bose shone brightest. He displayed the virtues that enabled him to rack up 58 wickets in last season's Ranji Trophy, bowling a probing on-and-outside off stump line, making the batsmen play, yet not offering too much of width to drive. He was threatening in the morning, when he was denied some confident lbw appeals, incisive in the afternoon, when one spell read 4-1-3-2, and quick in dispatching the tailenders when given the ball. In three spells out of four, he struck in his first over.
Powar's effort came close, against a line-up that included four left-handers. He was brought on as early as the tenth over of the day and tossed the ball up generously all day. He wasn't fazed by Vandort's aggression and deceived him in flight on many occasions. The tailenders didn't have a clue against his offbreaks and drifters and he knocked them over in a spell that produced three wickets in four balls.
Both bowlers were helped by some sloppy batting. Vandort, who took 80 minutes to cross double figures, eased to his fifty with some confident drives but gave it away immediately after. Dilruwan Perera was lucky to get through a tricky opening phase but an ugly swipe moments before lunch cut his innings short.
Sri Lanka were revived somewhat only because Samaraweera managed to string together half-century partnerships with the tail. He calmly accumulated runs in his 62-run sixth-wicket stand, as Kaushal Lokuarachchi turned aggressor, and stepped it up in his 51-run union for the seventh, with a confident Dhammika Prasad for company. He too gave it away, trying to glide Powar to third man and snicking to Dinesh Karthik, who kept wicket in the innings.
However, India's wicketkeeping woes continued with Karthik missing two regulation stumping chances. While Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who bowled three overs of medium-pace and nearly picked up a wicket, has struggled with his collection and not missed chances, Karthik went the opposite way: gathering clean but fluffing when the chances came. He didn't contribute much with the bat either, falling to an expansive drive towards the end of the day.
Ishant Sharma was used in short bursts and appears to have improved since the game against England Lions before the first Test. He foxed Kaushal Silva with a short one, inducing the pull and managing a caught-and-bowled chance from the bottom of the bat. Kumble went wicketless in his 11 overs and the lack of sting in his bowling will be a concern. He has picked up wickets in both Tests, and some important ones to get India back into the Lord's match, but has been nowhere close to the matchwinner that he can be.
Mahela Udawatte b Powar 20 (32 for 1)
Top-edged a sweep back onto the stumps
Dilruwan Perara c Laxman b Bose 34 (105 for 2)
Leading-edged a cross-batted swipe to second slip
Malinda Warnapura c Karthik b Bose 3 (111 for 3)
Pushed tentatively outside off
Michael Vandort c Gambhir b Bose (122 for 4)
Chipped a full ball straight to cover
Kaushal Silva c and b Sharma 4 (146 for 5)
Tried to pull but the ball popped up from the bottom of the bat
Kaushal Lokuarachchi lbw b Bose 35 (208 for 6)
Padded up without offering a stroke
Thilan Samaraweera c Karthik b Powar 75 (259 for 7)
Nicked trying to glide to third man
Rangana Herath lbw b Powar 0 (259 for 8)
Uncertain push; rapped in front
Akalanka Ganegama b Powar 0 (262 for 9)
Bowler by a straighter one
Chanaka Walegedara c Karthik b Bose 1 (266 all out)
Snicked while driving outside off
Dinesh Karthik c Silva b Prasad 11 (20 for 1)
Drove expansively outside off; nicked to the keeper
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo