Hardik Pandya hits maiden ton before Kuldeep takes four to make Sri Lanka follow on for second test
The 26 he took off left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara, is the most an Indian has scored in a single over in Tests, Pandya hit seven sixes in the course of the innings.
Hardik Pandya can barely remember when he last scored a century at any level. You can't blame him, for in 19 first class matches, 38 List A 50-over matches and 85 T20 matches between Baroda, India A and Mumbai Indians, Pandya had never scored a century in any form of cricket that is officially recorded as being somewhere close to the highest level.
Yet, he clouted Sri Lanka's attack all over the Pallekele International Stadium for 108. But, before going into rapture over the manner in which he dismantled the bowling attack as India posted 487 and shot out Sri Lanka for only 135 to enforce the follow on, it's worth spending a minute on all the records Pandya broke.
Pandya's century was the joint fastest by an Indian at No. 8. He is the first Indian to score a century before lunch in a Test. The 26 he took off left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara, is the most an Indian has scored in a single over in Tests. Pandya hit seven sixes in the course of the innings, something no Indian batsman has ever managed in an overseas Test.
Last, but certainly not least, Pandya became the fifth Indian to register his maiden first class century in a Test match. The four that preceded Pandya were Vijay Manjrekar, Ajay Ratra, Harbhajan Singh and, wait for it, Kapil Dev. The comparisons to the greatest Indian all-rounder are excessively premature for someone who has played only three Test matches, but in a country that worships individuals over team achievements, they are inevitable.
Already, MSK Prasad, the chairman of the selection committee, has let this particular cat out of the bag. "If he stays grounded I am sure we will see him being compared to the legendary Kapil Dev in the times to come," said Prasad soon after Pandya's hundred. Fortunately for India, Pandya isn't getting swept up in the hype just yet. "If I am even 10% the cricketer Kapil Dev was, I would've done very well," said the all-rounder at the end of the second day's play.
When Pandya walked out to bat, India were 322 for 6, and this soon became 339 for 7 when Wriddhiman Saha was dismissed. Pandya had just four runs to his name. The man who has made a name for himself by wielding his bat like a battle axe, showed remarkable restraint, reaching 50 off 61 balls. On many other days that many deliveries would have been enough to consume three Pandya innings.
But this was not any other day. The last man walked out to the crease with Pandya on 50, and although Umesh Yadav has a Ranji Trophy century to his credit, Pandya realised the time had come to unleash the inner beast that he had done so well to keep in check. The man who felt the brunt was Pushpakumara: 4,4,6,6,6. Hitting as cleanly as anyone has done in the game, Pandya repeatedly sent the ball sailing over the bowler's head.
Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka's captain, had not merely run out of ideas, he seemed to have lost the ability to think at all. Nine men were on the fence and only the bowler and keeper were in the same pin code as the batsman.
Chandimal will argue that the tactic eventually worked, but by then Pandya had 108, the last-wicket partnership was 66 (of which Umesh contributed 3) and India had gone well past the 400 target they had set themselves. Pandya's second fifty came off only 25 balls, and it did not take as many deliveries for Sri Lanka to gift their first wicket.
Upul Tharanga, and then Dimuth Karunaratne failed to counter the angle Mohammad Shami created from around the stumps, nicking off, and this began a procession from dressing-room to the middle and back that was more brisk than the famed Esala Perahera festival that Kandy is so famous for.
Chandimal lasted 87 balls for 48, but no other batsman would even last 35 balls and Sri Lanka were shot out for 135 in just 37.4 overs.
Follow on enforced, India got one step closer to the 3-0 sweep, Tharanga getting himself out for the second time in the day, dragging the ball back onto his stumps. Only two days of the Test had been played, and already Sri Lanka were all but out of the game, needing 333 more to just make India bat again.