India were particularly harsh on Dilruwan, Sri Lanka’s second spinner, milking him for more than five-and-a-half runs an over as he ended the day nursing figures of 21-0-117-0.
Sri Lanka made M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara work hard for their runs in the early stages of their partnership of 209, but the fourth and fifth bowlers, Dilruwan in particular, released the pressure. Thilan Samaraweera, Sri Lanka’s batting coach, stood up for Dilruwan, contending that the three right-hand batsmen who had batted on day two – Vijay, Pujara and Virat Kohli – had targeted the offspinner.
“With the figures you can say that [Dilruwan released the pressure on India],” Samaraweera said. “But he bowled well in the past. Today, India knew whom to attack. The two seamers and Herath bowled well, but unfortunately they attacked Dilruwan as most players are right-handed. All three are right-handed and they handled the offspinner well.”
Overall, Samaraweera thought Sri Lanka had done reasonably well with the ball on what he termed a “classic pitch”, but was disappointed with their batting effort on day one, when they had crumbled to 205 all out.
“I think we are behind the game at the moment,” he said. “I thought we bowled very good areas but they batted well on a good pitch. Disappointing that we won the toss, classic pitch, no seam movement, no spin, and we didn’t bat well, to be honest with you. We had so many soft dismissals.”
Two of the soft dismissals were of promising young strokemakers – Sadeera Samarawickrama and Niroshan Dickwella. Samaraweera said it was a difficult balancing act, as batting coach, between encouraging their attacking tendencies and getting them to adapt to situations where a more measured approach might be necessary.
“Sadeera, I have to handle very carefully,” Samaraweera said. “He is only 22. He has played only three Tests. I have to keep the balance going, his attack and defense. At the moment, I am having chats with him as I am new to this role. Dickwella took too many risks. He will get to realise that.”
Samarawickrama left the field to undergo X-rays after being struck on the ribs by a powerful Vijay sweep while fielding at short leg. Samaraweera confirmed the batsman was fine and that he hadn’t suffered any fracture.
Samaraweera also felt Sri Lanka’s first-day performance had continued a troubling recent trend of struggling against spin. He was confident he could help them turn it around, having himself undergone a similar lean patch against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh on Sri Lanka’s tour of India in 2005-06, when he only managed 42 runs in three Tests at an average of 10.50.
“[In] 2005 I struggled with Anil and Harbhajan. Before that I had thought I was a good player of spin,” he said. “But I worked hard from there on, 2006 onwards I improved a lot. This group, last two years, hasn’t batted well against spin. I have observed that and [there is a] lot of work for us to do in the future.”
Samaraweera said he might need four to five months to work on the batsmen’s weaknesses against spin. Before that, he reminded that they would need to get through the challenge of facing R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in Sri Lanka’s second innings.
“I can’t give a timeframe when we can rectify,” he said. “I need about four-five months to identify things. After the Indian series we have two or three weeks before [a tour of] Bangladesh. Then we have Independence Cup and then we have two months break and that’s the time to address the issue.
“Hard to do things when you are on tour. [We face a] big challenge over the next three days with rough and uneven bounce coming into play. When you are behind against the world’s number one and two bowlers, you have to play your A game.”