Their career in the longest format of the game is very, very young but on the second day of the third Test in Palekele, Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya stood out to shift the momentum of the dead-rubber. At the start of play on Sunday, Sri Lanka possibly stood at their most promising position in the three-match Test series – they were not in command with India at 329/6 but had made things neutral. But as the final ball of the day’s proceedings was bowled by R Ashwin, Sri Lanka stood at 19/1 having been asked to follow on. India thus stood 333 runs in front and were inching towards a whitewash.
The honours of the day and credit for shifting the momentum of the game would lie firmly on Kuldeep, playing his second Test, and Pandya, playing his third Test. Pandya’s blistering knock of 108 runs from 96 balls, with his maiden Test century arriving in 83 balls, was his first first class century and he became just the fifth player to get a FC ton in a Test. He paced his inning beautifully to score 107 runs in the first session. He found good support from Yadav for the eighth wicket and then Umesh Yadav for the last wicket to take India to 487 runs.
In reply, Mohammed Shami broke Sri Lanka’s back with a glorious spell of seam bowling. Using the new ball to sublime effect, Shami ensured Sri Lanka would remain pegged back and not get confident or express themselves. He was rewarded with two wickets in under seven overs.
However, Kuldeep, playing his first Test of the series having come on as a replacement for suspended Ravindra Jadeja, added yet another four-wicket haul to his career with the hosts not helping themselves courtesy some loose shots.
Asked to follow on, Sri Lanka lost Upul Tharanga after he chopped one on off Umesh Yadav. Sri Lanka, going into day three, will have a mountain to climb.