Amit Mishra (left) was the pick of India's bowlers with 4 for © AFP
Amit Mishra (left) was the pick of India’s bowlers with 4 for 43 © AFP

India’s bowlers toiled hard without reward in the morning session of Day Three of the second Test at Colombo, with Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne ensuring a wicketless pre-lunch session. The Indian bowlers did not wilt though, and maintained a disciplined line and length throughout the session. It was only Angelo Mathews’ excellent innings that buoyed the hosts, as India bowled to a plan and waited patiently for the rewards to come. Sure enough, a wicket came soon after lunch, and Sri Lanka crashed from 241 for 3 to 306 all out. Shiamak Unwalla explains how the Indian bowlers had the perfect day out. READ: Have India finally settled on the perfect Test combination?

Not since Zaheer Khan was at his prime has India’s bowling attack looked as disciplined as it has in this Test. Sri Lanka batted resolutely on Day Two, with Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, and Angelo Mathews all combining to take the hosts to 140 for 3 at stumps. India toiled away without a lot of reward, and the match hung in the balance. India would have wanted an early breakthrough on Day Three, but were denied by an excellent partnership between Thirimanne and Mathews. The duo scored 84 runs in the morning session. And yet, at no point did Sri Lanka look like they were dominating India. READ: KL Rahul offers India potential solution to No. 3 crisis with ton against Sri Lanka in 2nd Test

Ishant Sharma constantly went past Thirimanne’s edge, and Umesh Yadav kept hurrying the batsmen. Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin were excellent as well, frequently beating the batsmen and extracting appreciable turn from the pitch. Stuart Binny looked like a weak link after opening the bowling and getting hit for a couple of boundaries, but he was also the man who bowled the first maiden over of the day. READ: Virat Kohli’s positive cricket leads India forward in 2nd Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo

However, once Binny found his rhythm he proved to be extremely tricky as well. He was always probing and bowled with enough accuracy that the batsmen were not able to switch off for a moment. He bowled one particularly potent over that saw Mathews almost get run out off the first ball; Mathews then edged to gully but it fell just short; the next one went past Jehan Mubarak’s outside edge; the fourth delivery took the inside edge of the bat but evaded the fielder at short midwicket. He took his maiden Test wicket soon thereafter, getting a well-set Mathews to edge to slip for 102. READ: Kumar Sangakkara and that cover drive: A match made in cricketing heaven

If Binny was impressive, Mishra was outstanding. For a long time now India has struggled to clean out opposition tailenders, but Mishra ensured a swift end to any potential resistance; having dismissed Silva the evening before, Mishra got back into the action by taking out Dhammika Prasad, Mubarak, and Tharindu Kaushal within 17 runs of each other to make certain that India got a sizeable lead. Prasad was caught at slip, Mubarak was clean bowled after getting beaten comprehensively, and Kaushal went for a typical No. 10 slog and was stumped easily. Mishra confounded the batsmen with his turn and flight, looking every bit the crafty leg-spinner who took five wickets on debut against Australia seven years ago. READ: Kumar Sangakkara — one of the very best ever

Ishant and Umesh were excellent as well. The duo did not have helpful conditions to work with, but they made sure that the pressure was never let up; this has been a huge problem for India with Umesh, Mohammed Shami, and Varun Aaron. The trio usually pick up wickets but while going for plenty of runs as well. That did not happen this time, with Umesh managing to maintain an excellent line and length throughout. Ishant meanwhile did what he does best: peg away just short of a length on the off stump line. READ: Virat Kohli must back his decisions

India continue to impress, both with their intent and execution. The bowling was disciplined on Day Two, and they proved on Day Three that they were able to maintain the intensity across sessions. It is not particularly surprising that India managed to clean out the Sri Lankan lower order without much resistance. If India can continue to function as a well-regulated team, the results will start coming thick and fast. READ: It is time for “Captain Kohli” to step up

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