Ravindra Jadeja paid a fitting tribute to one of his earliest mentors Shane Warne with a majestic 175 not out as India took complete command of the opening Test against Sri Lanka with a mammoth first innings total of 574/8 declared on the second day in Mohali.
After his batting heroics, Jadeja contributed with the ball too as he, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin reduced Sri Lanka to 108 for four at stumps and made a three-day finish look imminent. Sri Lanka still needs 267 runs to avoid follow-on.
Jadeja or the Indian team management didn't feel that the all-rounder needed to go for a double hundred as hosts declared their innings after quite literally batting Sri Lanka out of the game.
In the final session, Ashwin (61 off 82 balls, 2/21), having nicely warmed up with his 12th half-century, removed Lahiru Thirimanne and Dhananjaya De Silva to go past Sir Richard Hadlee’s 431 victims.
Jadeja (1/30) later celebrated his hundred once again by trapping Sri Lanka's best player and skipper Dimuth Karunaratne (28) leg before. Bumrah also chipped in with a wicket. Jadeja's career-best knock, his second ton in Test cricket, came less than 24 hours after the cricket world tried to come to terms with Warne's tragic end.
It was Warne, who first realised Jadeja's untapped batting potential during Rajasthan Royals’ 2008 Indian Premier League campaign, where it was his late hitting that earned him the 'Rockstar' moniker from his mentor-captain.
Jadeja, over the years, has been one of the indispensable all-format players for India in Test cricket and more so for his batting abilities that make him a better package than Ashwin in overseas conditions.
On the day, he was at his imperious best as India scored 217 runs in two sessions because of his attacking batting.
It did help that Sri Lanka were a pacer short with their fastest bowler Lahiru Kumara left indisposed due to a hamstring injury. He failed to complete his 11th over and over dependence on inexperienced Lasith Embuldeniya (46-3-188-2) also harmed their cause.
Jadeja, in all, batted for five and half hours, faced 228 balls and by the time he walked back to the pavilion, he had hit 17 fours and three sixes. A partnership of 130 with Ashwin for the seventh wicket and another 103 runs with Mohammed Shami (20 not out) for the unbroken ninth wicket basically nailed Sri Lanka.
“I always enjoy batting with him (Ashwin), bowling with him, it is all about teamwork, one man can't win you the game and it has to be a team effort," Jadeja said at the end of the day's play. However, Karunaratne's captaincy and his field placings left a lot to be desired as not for once during the course of the two days, did it look that the islanders want to compete.
It was a very defensive game and the gulf between India and Sri Lanka was so evident in the manner, the two teams approached the match. Jadeja and Ashwin made India look proactive while Sri Lanka despite the hammering that they received weren't even reactive.
Bowling to Jadeja with a deep mid-wicket, long-off/on, deep extra cover and deep fine leg with an aim to stop the boundaries was a negative approach and it didn't really make much of a difference. The 58 boundaries and seven sixes conceded during the course of the innings tells a story.
Save veteran seamer Suranga Lakmal (2/90), none of the other bowlers pitched it in the right areas. The ones on the hips were tucked fine enough to beat the fielder stationed at mid-wicket boundary and half volleys were dispatched through the right of mid-off.
The short balls were pulled fine enough and when it was tossed up, he lofted it straight into the stands. In between, he refused the singles to shield Shami from strike. The customary sword celebration at 50, 100 and 150 brought a round applause from the crowd.
Such was the plight of the Lankan fielders that Embuldeniya couldn't even pick up and throw the ball to keeper Niroshan Dickwella when Mohammed Shami had literally come down to the non-striker's end. Dickwella was angry and he let the bowler know about his frustration.
In general, the Lankans never looked competitive with India scoring runs at 4.43 runs per over during the entire course of 129.2 overs. Abject surrender by any international team is a bad advertisement for Test cricket and even more so a reluctant bunch, which Karunaratne's men are currently looking like.