Pandya’s 96-ball 108 powers India to 487

Innings: India 487 (Dhawan 119, Pandya 108, Rahul 85, Sandakan 5-132, Pushpakumara 3-82) v Sri Lanka
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A brilliantly paced maiden Test hundred from Hardik Pandya – also his first in first-class cricket – stretched India’s first-innings total far beyond Sri Lanka’s comfort levels over the course of the second morning in Pallekele. Having started the day’s play 329 for 6, India added a further 158 runs before Pandya was last man out in the first over after lunch.

Pandya had just reached his half-century when India lost their ninth wicket, some ten minutes before the scheduled lunch break. The interval was duly pushed back by half an hour, and Pandya went on to dominate a tenth-wicket stand of 66, racing from 50 off 61 balls to 108 off 96, with the No. 11 Umesh Yadav scoring 3 off 14 in that time.

It meant Pandya, who began the day’s play on 1, became the second Indian batsman in the series to score a century in a session, after Shikhar Dhawan on the first day of the first Test in Galle. He was out third ball after resumption, slicing a Lakshan Sandakan googly to the fielder on the cover boundary. Sandakan finished with figures of 5 for 132, his first five-wicket haul, coming in his sixth Test match.

By then, Pandya had utterly deflated a Sri Lankan side that had begun the second day with the verve and menace with which they had ended the first, Vishwa Fernando finding extra bounce to have Wriddhiman Saha caught at gully in the second over of the morning to leave India 339 for 7. Fernando kept testing the batsmen with swing, bounce and a bit of seam, and at one point beat the No. 9 Kuldeep Yadav four times in succession – three times going past the outside edge and once past the inside edge to provoke a loud lbw appeal.

Having survived that, Kuldeep put his head down and ground out 26 off 73 balls to help add 62 for the eighth wicket with Pandya. That partnership came at 3.17 an over, indicative of how hard Sri Lanka’s bowlers made both Kuldeep and Pandya work for their runs. During this phase of his innings, Pandya treated the bowling with respect, keeping an eye out for the odd short ball from the fast bowlers, which he put away with pulls, punches and ramps over the keeper.

Otherwise, he simply took the singles on offer against Sri Lanka’s defensive fields. The bowlers and Pandya circled each other warily in this period; they knew of his hitting ability, he knew they knew, and for now he would bide his time.

Then Lakshan Sandakan struck twice in three overs, finding Kuldeep’s edge with dip and turn after drawing him forward with his flight, and then taking a sharp return catch when Mohammed Shami drove him hard and straight. It brought the No. 11 to the crease, and provoked a change of approach from Pandya.

By this time, Malinda Pushpakumara had bowled four overs in the morning, and his figures read 22-2-56-3. Over the course of his next five balls, Pandya went on to mangle those figures, taking 26 runs off them with the cleanest striking imaginable, all of it executed with the stillest of heads and the smoothest of bat-swings.

He began the over with a flat, slog-swept four, and followed it with a charge down the pitch for a stinging flat-bat hit past the bowler’s left hand. Then came three successive straight sixes, one of them clearing the sightscreen and another punching a hole through it. This was the head-on confrontation that the morning had been building towards all along.

Sandakan, varying his pace and keeping batsmen guessing the direction of turn, conceded only three off the next over despite Pandya being on strike through most of it. Then Lahiru Kumara replaced Pushpakumara, pace replacing spin. No matter; Pandya hooked his second ball for six, premeditating by taking guard on off stump and hitting clean and hard. Into the 90s.

Another six in the next over, over midwicket off Sandakan, took him to 97, and the hundred came up with a straight drive off Kumara – a straight-bat push to the left of a diving mid-on. The short ball duly followed, and Pandya, waiting for it, helped it over the keeper. The day had begun with Sri Lanka in their most promising position of the series. It had taken only one more session for normal service to resume.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo