Talking Point: Indian lower order comes of age

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 04, 2017 18:12 hrs
Ravindra Jadeja made an unbeaten 70 as the Indian lower-order once again came good

In Sri Lanka, cricket and music​​ go hand in hand. The drums roll out; stadiums reverberate to Papare, with fans donning blue jerseys, waving the national flag with great pomp and joy.

It's intoxicating. It's exhilarating. The noise gradually reaches the pitch, the men around the bat yell, and crack jokes in local Sinhalese language and all of a sudden a batsman finds himself ​o​n a lonely planet. ​

Even the best batsmen ​will ​admit that Sri Lanka is one of the most difficult places to play Test cricket. The home team has a reputation of turning ​the fortunes of matches in ​a session.

But that's a thing of ​the ​past. Uncle Persy is the only constant ​as ​Sri Lankan cricket ha​s​ changed​ around him.​​ The drum beats don't frighten a batsman anymore neither do the Sri Lankan bowlers.

​The ​Sinhalese Sports Club ground on Friday witnessed ​the ​Indian lower order's high noon as Sri Lanka were left in dire straits, searching for inspiration. ​

Team ​India came up with yet another dominant performance as they declared their first innings at 622 for nine after the tea interval on the second day of the second ​T​est. At stumps, the hosts were 50/2 trailing by 572 runs.

Half-centuries from Ravichandran Ashw​i​n, Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja put India in ​command. Ashwin (54), Saha (67) and Jadeja (70 not out) ensured India might just bat once in the ​second Test.

Not long ago, it was frustrating to watch opposition bowlers denying India an advantage by running through the​ir​ lower-order.

​The norm ​earlier ​​​might only have been to offer resistance, ​but it isn't so anymore.

​The lower order just don't block everything that is thrown at them. Rather smartly, with pure batting skills, the​y now take the onus o​f​ ​putting the team ​in a position of supreme strength.

Resuming the day at 344/3, India lost Pujara (133) in the second over of the day. Ashwin joined Rahane (132) and denied Sri Lanka any chance of further damage by stitching ​together ​a 63-run fifth wicket stand.

Ashwin started on a positive note by piercing the gaps and ​hitting two boundaries off ​the spinners ​Rangana Herath and Karunaratne.

Although he slowed down a bit, the all-rounder showed intent and along with Rahane pushed Sri Lanka further on the backfoot.

While Rahane made frequent trips down the pitch to unsettle the bowlers, Ashwin played his natural game​, timing the ball sweetly and ​ finding the gaps.

By the time Rahane perished to debutant left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara for a brilliant 132, a well-set Ashwin was already making his moves.

Within no time, Ashwin notched up his 11th half-century in 92 deliveries as India continued to pile ​on the ​agony on Sri Lanka.

The fall of Ashwin saw Hardik Pandya attacking straightaway. Pandya scored 20 runs off as many deliveries before he mistimed his shot while trying to smoke Pushpakumara out of the park.

Jadeja then joined Saha in the middle and the duo punctured the little pressure that Sri Lanka had created in between.

Taking calculated risks​,​ both Saha and Jadeja took India past the 600-run mark registering emphatic half-centuries​ along the way​. The​ir​ partnership yielded 72 runs and most importantly placed India ​on top. ​

It​ wa​s not the first ​instance of this Indian lower order t​aking​ over the scoring duties.

The likes of Ashwin, Jadeja, Saha and Jayant Yadav have come to India's rescue ​right​ through the home season.

They warmed up against New Zealand, and when England arrived​,​ the lower-order did exactly what was expected ​f​rom them.

During the opening Test at Rajkot, England had India on the ropes. But Ashwin and Jadeja played their parts to perfection and along with Kohli helped India draw the Test on the final day.

In the next Test at Vizag, Ashwin made a brilliant 58 as the lower-order powered India to a massive 455.

At Mohali, the lower-order offered stiff resistance when India were reeling at 204/6. They showed exemplary grit and determination and accomplished their mission of steering India towards safety.

According to sourced data, out of the total 2471 runs scored by India in four Test matches against​ the Poms​, 633 came off Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav's bat.

"Yes, that's definitely one of the key factors. The lower-order contribution​.​ ​W​e were top in the last I don't know how many months. That's something that we always lacked," India skipper Virat Kohli had said.

"That's ​(what) ​we are trying to do even with the fast-bowling all-rounders. We got Hardik into the side which we think is going to be the key when we tour away as well,” he added.

​Colombo has yet again underlined how​ the trio of Saha, Jadeja and Ashwin ​can be relied upon.

But the​ir​ biggest test ​will come​ when India travels for away tours to South Africa, England and Australia.

Can they ​prove as resourceful on lively tracks? Only time will tell.

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