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If the Indian spinners toiled hard on day three, they are in for more hard work on the penultimate day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Cricket Club as Ravichandran Ashwin has said the pitch was going to slow down which would make it, even more, tougher for the tweakers to get the breakthroughs.
Led by Ashwin’s 26th five-wicket haul, India took Sri Lanka’s last 8 wickets for just 133 runs to dismiss them for a paltry 183 in the first innings but the story changed in the second innings when Virat Kohli asked the hosts to follow on. Umesh Yadav had given the visitors a great start by dismissing Upul Tharanga for just 2 but Kusal Mendis (110) and Dimuth Karunaratne (92*) not only negated the spinners but also launched a great counter-attack to lead a good fightback by adding 191 runs for the second wicket. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled 30 overs in the second innings but could not manage a single wicket as Sri Lanka finished the day on 209 for 2, still 230 runs behind India’s first innings total of 622.
Speaking after the day’s play, Ashwin said: “I think this wicket will get slower and slower. It is not going to be easy work tomorrow, for sure. We will have to be really disciplined. I thought we gave a few runs more than what we should have ideally given today. Tomorrow, we can probably try and squeeze them out and try and nip a few wickets up early.
And with the pitch set to make life difficult for the spinners, Ashwin feels the second new ball will be crucial.
“It is going to be very important. Mind you, it is not going to be easy because it (pitch) is slowing down at a very, very quick pace. Edges aren’t carrying. So, that means we will have to stick to our guns and try to prize out a few wickets. The second new ball, therefore, becomes important,” he added.
Ashwin further lauded Karunaratne, who was dismissed by the Indian off-spinner for 97 in the second innings at Galle and in the first innings in the ongoing Test.
“In the morning I didn’t bowl a lot to the left-handers. I got all the right-handers’ wickets. There is some help if you go wider for the right-handers. For left-handers, obviously, the ball goes even further away so it enabled to get beaten more often than not. Karunaratne played really, really well. They batted inside the line a lot when they defended, and when they attacked they were not in two minds. They attacked really well,” said Ashwin.
Speaking on the team’s decision to enforce the follow-on, the 30-year old said: “More often than not, we have based it on how fresh or how tired the bowlers are. I thought we did get them out in under two sessions, so we thought it was the right time to enforce the follow-on.”