© AFP
India might just have played the ideal Test for themselves so far © AFP

India scored 393 in the first innings and kept Sri Lanka down to 140 for 3 at stumps on Day Two of the second Test at P Sara Oval. The scorecard may not suggest the full extent of what has unfurled at Colombo, but it seems India have finally settled on a Test combination that can win Tests for the team both home and away. Shiamak Unwalla feels India have had a near-perfect Test so far regardless of the match situation (which reads an innocuous ‘Sri Lanka trail by 253 with 7 wickets in hand)’. READ: India vs Sri Lanka 2015, 2nd Test at Colombo evenly poised at stumps on Day 2

India got off to a poor start at P Sara Oval, losing one of their best batsmen — Murali Vijay — in the very first over of the match. Ajinkya Rahane, another of India’s more consistent players, came in at No. 3 for the first time in Tests but failed to make much of an impact. From 12 for 2 Virat Kohli and KL Rahul took charge and reconstructed the innings, adding an excellent 164 for the third wicket. However, given India’s recent tendency to fold in a heap after one big partnership, there was a risk that India would soon find themselves in the doldrums once again. READ: Kumar Sangakkara and that cover drive: A match made in cricketing heaven

Once Kohli and Rahul were separated, though, Rohit Sharma came in with his neck under fire, and finally played an innings of substance. If Kohli’s 78 were commanding, aggressive runs, Rohit’s 79 were elegant and relaxed. Rahul batted through as well, and the duo put on 55 for the fourth wicket. It was not a huge partnership, certainly not given what preceded it; but India made sure they did not lose another quick wicket. READ: Virat Kohli-KL Rahul, and other high 3rd-wicket partnerships after losing first two wickets below 15

Stuart Binny followed, and though he managed only 10, he hung around for 40 deliveries, helping Rohit add another 36. Again, it was hardly a sizeable enterprise, but there was no sudden slide. Wriddhiman Saha and Rohit then scored 52 between them before Rohit’s dismissal. Had Rohit played out what was the final over of Day One, India might have gone past 450; but that is mere conjecture. READ: #ThankYouSanga: Virat Kohli keeps cricket’s innocence alive

Ravichandran Ashwin did not last long on Day Two, but Amit Mishra and Saha added a useful 46. Ishant Sharma and Saha put on 19 and the final wicket yielded only 7, but by this point India had 393. It is not be big enough to ensure India will go on to win by an innings, but had India been offered 393 after being 12 for 2, they would have accepted it. The most encouraging aspect of India’s batting was that most of their batsmen took the time to settle down. Rahul scored 108, Kohli 78, Rohit 79, and Saha 56. The innings was never in danger of collapsing on itself. READ: Kumar Sangakkara — one of the very best ever

Then came the time to bowl, and once again India showed remarkable consistency. Umesh Yadav struck early, Ishant Sharma asked a few questions, and by the time Stuart Binny came on to bowl the ninth over, Sri Lanka had got to a nervous 33 for 1. The match situation might have been very different had Binny not overstepped while bowling his sixth delivery, as Kaushal Silva nibbled at a good ball on off stump and got an outside edge to the ‘keeper. Instead of being 34 for 2, Sri Lanka were 35 for 1. Despite that reprieve, India did not let the pressure up. READ: Indian seamers must contribute more

Kumar Sangakkara was tied down by Ashwin and the pacers, and after a streaky innings, he edged to Rahane at slip for an 87-ball 32. Silva played an agonisingly slow innings as well, and was finally dismissed getting a top edge while trying to sweep Mishra. His 51 came in 118 balls. Lahiru Thirimanne struggled as well, but managed to remain unbeaten on 28 off 81 balls at stumps, with Angelo Mathews on a 31-ball 19 at the other end. READ: KL Rahul offers India potential solution to No. 3 crisis with ton against Sri Lanka in 2nd Test

To their credit, the Indian bowling attack was exceptionally disciplined. They rarely bowled loose deliveries, and had no weak links who leaked easy runs. Ishant was the most expensive bowler, but he went at only 3.10, while the one man whom most people would have been sceptic about — Binny — went at a mere 2.18 from 11 overs. Mishra was perhaps under-bowled, but he had excellent figures of 7-1-9-1. READ: Rohit Sharma: Prodigy or Tragedy?

If this Test is a sign of things to come, India might well have found a combination that works. The personnel may shift: Shikhar Dhawan will almost certainly return at some point, and India’s No. 3 problem still needs to be solved — but with an all-rounder at No. 6 India are free to play a fifth bowling option, while having a few bowlers who can bat. India have had nearly the perfect game so far. All they need is to keep up the intensity and ensure that they can convert this rare consistency to perpetuity. READ: India’s failure to find all-rounder in Test cricket hampering their chances

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)