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IND vs SL, 2nd Test: On a Tricky Surface, Shreyas Iyer Proves Attack is The Best Form of Defence

Shreyas Iyer is growing as a Test batsman. He is showing the maturity required at this level. He may have missed his second Test century in only his fourth appearance by eight runs. But, his 92 attacking runs were worth many more on a pitch that offered turn from the moment the spinners were introduced into the attack after seven overs of the Test; especially on a day when 16 wickets fell, India’s 252 is worth that total.

There was a puff of dust from the pitch early on and the dry surface that made batting difficult. Iyer decided that attack was the best option and went after the left-arm spin twins Praveen Jayawickrama and Lasith Embuldeniya even as they threatened to dismiss India for less than 150.

Entering the crease at the fall of Virat Kohli at 86/4, the 27-year-old Iyer took the attack to the opposition. In a small but entertaining partnership of 40 in just 31 balls for the fifth wicket with Rishabh Pant, Iyer assessed the pitch.

He took lessons from Pant (39, 26 balls, 7×4), who went after the Sri Lankan spinners and played the only way that he knows, i.e. to attack. He even survived off the third ball he faced when Suranga Lakmal, fielding in the deep and covering quite a distance, dropped a tough chance. Pant scored 75% of the runs that made the fifth-wicket partnership take the game away from Sri Lanka.

Iyer got into the act with a beautiful drive through the off-side off Embuldeniya. However, only in the previous delivery, he played a needless reverse hit and was lucky that the ball did not do anything more than miss the stumps. Iyer gave the near full house and vociferous M Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd a shock and made them wonder why attempt anything silly when he can produce some beautiful shots.

Iyer, who batted a position lower than Pant in Mohali and here, did brilliantly well with the lower half. If it was Ravindra Jadeja and his magnificent 175 not out batting with the tail in Mohali, it was Iyer here in Bengaluru on Saturday.

He did not need a second invitation to deposit bad deliveries to the fence. He also converted some good deliveries and before they could do anything off the pitch, hoicked them at will over the boundary, managing to do so four times besides the 10 boundaries along the ground.

On such a difficult pitch, which is surely a result-oriented one, Iyer was magnificent. It may have been day one on Saturday with India winning the toss and batting first, but it seemed like a pitch on which a lot was played on, say like the third or fourth day.

That is why, in the context of the pitch conditions, Iyer’s knock was worth more than the 92 runs. He himself knew the worth of his knock that soon after reaching his fifty, he celebrated by removing his helmet and raising his arms, something that is usually reserved when a batsman reaches the triple digits. Usually, it is just the raising of the bat on reaching fifty.

Even as the spinners Embuldeniya, Jayawickrama and de Silva went about removing Iyer’s partners, Iyer was his usual self. He even safeguarded Nos. 10 and 11, taking a majority of the strike and refusing singles early on in the overs when Shami and Bumrah were giving him company. Sri Lankan field placings also helped his cause as the field was widespread, allowing him to take a single off the fifth or sixth deliveries of the over to retain his strike.

Iyer was on 60 when Axar Patel was the eighth Indian wicket to fall. He gave everyone hope of reaching a magnificent century and was on course before another bad habit of his, stepping out and wanting to finish things in a hurry, caused his downfall. He was two hits away from a remarkable hundred but danced down the wicket far too long against Jayawickrama and was easily stumped by Niroshan Dickwella.

But for Iyer’s attacking knock, India would not have reached 150. Credit to him alone for taking India to 252, a total that should be big enough for them to post another victory.

While the Sri Lankan spinners took eight of the 10 Indian wickets, the Indian pacers took early breakthroughs to have them reeling at 14 for three in the sixth over and 28 for four in the 12th. Shami and Bumrah taking two wickets apiece. As the day ended, the pacers took five of the six Sri Lankan wickets.

Axar Patel, who was the only change in India’s 11 that won by an innings and 222 runs in Mohali last week, coming in for Jayant Yadav, became India’s first spinner to strike under lights.

While Iyer showed that attack was the best form of defence, especially when the pitch was not good to bat on, Sri Lanka’s senior batsman Angelo Mathews took a similar approach against the Indian spinners. He did not hesitate to hit sixes at the slightest opportunity and played some exquisite strokes to keep Sri Lanka afloat. Even Charith Asalanka tried to take a similar approach but in his attempt to go after the bowling, top-edged Patel to give Ashwin at mid-off a simple catch.

Iyer, with his punishing knock, and the regular strikes by the Indian bowlers, have clearly put India in the driver’s seat and taken the hosts to another victory.

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