‘Game-changer Pant, Befuddled Kohli’: Day 1 Highlights of 1st India-Sri Lanka Test


By: Navneet Mundhra
Updated: March 4, 2022 17:55

Propped up by Rishabh Pant’s rollicking 96 and Hanuma Vihari’s fifty, India reached 357-6 at stumps on Day 1 of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Mohali. Playing his 100th Test, Virat Kohli uncorked a few gorgeous shots but was prised out at 45. Here are the highlights of the day:

Rohit pulls and perishes

Indian captain Rohit Sharma’s penchant for pull shot is well documented. He ran amok in the first hour of the Day 1 and hammered six smashing boundaries. Rohit also unleashed a couple of pulls against Lahiru Kumara to garner fours, but was caught at fine leg attempting a similar shot. This is reminiscent of former Australian great Ricky Ponting who scored heaps of runs by playing pull shot but was also out many times while attempting it. Some batsmen live by the pull and die by the pull.

Befuddled Kohli

Amid so much hype surrounding his 100th Test, Kohli looked determined to end the drought and score his first Test hundred since 2019. He negotiated all the bowlers with ease and scored runs effortlessly. Left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando tried to entice by bowling on the fifth stump outside his off-stump, but Kohli kept squeezing and steering him through point and also unfurled a gorgeous cover-drive off him in the 43rd over.

During the innings, he also became the 6th Indian batsmen after Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman to score 8,000 Test runs. However, his aspiration to become the first Indian to smash a hundred in 100th Test was blown to pieces by left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya. Embuldeniya slipped in a ripper that pitched on the middle-stump and turned a trifle to rattle Kohli’s off-stump, as he closed the face of the bat early not expecting the ball to turn.

The befuddled look on his face told the tale of astonishment and disappointment.

Game-changer Pant

Indian wicketkeeper Pant has acquired a reputation of being game-changer in the longer format and not without reasons. Since the start of 2019, Pant has played a host of stellar innings to tow India out of morass. Almost all his match-winning innings came India were in a spot of bother – whether his series-winning 89* against Australia at Brisbane (2020) or 101 against England at Ahmedabad (2021). India’s top-order has mostly flattered to deceive in last couple of years and had it not been for Pant’s bravura performances, India would have lost many Tests.

It was no different on Friday as Pant came out to bat when India were 175-4, having lost Kohli and Hanuma Vihari in quick succession. Another wicket at that stage would have given a huge impetus to Sri Lanka but Pant had other plans. Undeterred by the delicate situation, Pant decided to go berserk. He stepped out and clouted Embuldeniya, who was bowling nicely, for a six over mid-wicket. Later, in the 76th over of the innings, he launched a sensational attack on Embuldeniya and collected 22 runs in one over.

However, he was (yet again) dismissed in the 90s, as Lakmal cleaned him up for 96. This is the 6th time in his short career that Pant has been nipped out in the nervous 90s. But his turbocharged innings took the wind of Sri Lanka’s sails and propelled India to a commanding position.

Elegy for Embuldeniya

Embuldeniya was the pick of the bowlers for Sri Lanka but his bowling figures were badly mangled by Pant’s assault. He used his arm-ball, which is his stock delivery, cannily and also got some balls to turn sharply. Mayank Agarwal fell prey to his arm-ball, while Kohli succumbed to an absolute peach. However, later in the innings, Pant ruthlessly took him to the cleaners and Embuldeniya was left to lick his wounds.

Solid Vihari, reliable Jadeja

In the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara, who is dropped from the Test team, Vihari was promoted to number-3 position. Vihari oozed his customary calm and displayed admirable application. He looked to play straight and looked solid at the crease. Vihari was bowled by Fernando as he played on attempting an expansive cover drive, but not before scoring crucial 58.

Jadeja once again showed his batting prowess and stitched up a fine 104-run partnership with Pant. He was happy to play second fiddle as Pant went hammer and tongs at Sri Lanka bowlers. At stumps, he remained unbeaten on 45.

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