Sri Lanka hold India to a draw

All odds were against Sri Lanka when they went into the final Test of the series against India. Many pundits would have given them little chance to avoid a 2-0 loss in the series. The belief probably got stronger after India posted a massive first innings total on the back of Virat Kohli’s record double century. However, they proved many fans wrong, by putting up a stern fight in the fourth innings. A century by Dhananjaya de Silva and support from the lower middle-order ensured that Sri Lanka held India to a draw, one that will leave them pleased even though they lose the series, 1-0.

Virat Kohli won the toss on Day 1, and had no hesitation in batting first, although conditions were hazy and foggy at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Shikhar Dhawan, who wasn’t part of the second Test made his return to the squad, replacing KL Rahul. The Indian openers got off to a sound start, as Dhawan played at a decent strike rate, getting India off the blocks. However, he perished to the off-spinner on 23. Cheteshwar Pujara got his eye in and played a few pleasing strokes, but couldn’t convert the start. Just like Dhawan, he lost his wicket on 23.

Murali Vijay, fresh off a century and Virat Kohli on the back of his fifth double ton in the second Test, were brought together with the fall of those two wickets. They had a great time batting together and stitched a massive partnership that went on till the end of Day 1. Both Vijay & Kohli went on to score hundreds, Vijay his second consecutive, while Kohli his third consecutive one. Their innings were filled with sumptuous strokes that left the Lankans answerless.

Vijay got to his fourth 150+ score, and looked good for his first double in Tests. However, as the case has been in the past, Vijay lost his wicket on 155. At the other end, there was no stopping Kohli, who crossed 150 and even went on to surpass the 5000-run mark in his Test career. Sandakan, who foxed Vijay with a smart delivery that got him stumped, duplicated the same when he got Rahane stumped with a similar delivery. Niroshan Dickwella was brilliant with his glovework, as the Lankans claimed two quick wickets late in the day.

On Day 2, India began well as the classy duo of Kohli & Rohit Sharma continued punishing the Lankan bowlers In the first session. Kohli’s fluent knock was flowing with wonderful strokes, as he went on to score his sixth double century, all of which have come in the last 18 months. He went past Brian Lara’s tally of 5 doubles as captain, claiming the prestigious record. Rohit Sharma, at the other end got to his half-century before lunch, but got out thereafter, on 65.

The afternoon session was marred by health issues for a few Sri Lankan fielders. The pollution in Delhi got to them, and almost all the Lankan players put on masks. Multiple stoppages during the session saw the Sri Lankan team manager and Indian coach, Ravi Shastri stroll out to the field to talk to the umpires. Kohli rhythm was perhaps broken after he crossed his previous highest Test score of 235. He was eventually caught at slip by Mathws on 243. Not long after his wicket, the Lankans were reduced to 10 men on the field, and their fielding coach with no more substitutes left to bring on. Their fielding coach put on whites to cover for the team. In the end, that wasn’t required as Kohli had enough with the interruptions, and called for the declaration. India had a massive 536 runs on the board.

Sri Lanka had their work cut out yet again in the series, as their batsmen began the innings under some pressure. They were forced to send Dilruwan Perera to accompany Dimuth Karunaratne as openers with Samarawickrama injured during fielding. The Indian pacers got a wicket each before Tea, as the Lankans ended the session on 18/2. On either side of the Tea break, Perera looked to play positively and notched up a handy 42 before being trapped by Jadeja in front of the stumps.

India perhaps saw an opening to tear into Sri Lanka’s middle-order and end the innings quickly. However, Sri Lanka’s experience came to the fore in the form of Angelo Mathews & Dinesh Chandimal. The duo took the team to stumps without any further disturbance, after Mathews went on to score his fifty.

Mathews & Chandimal saw off the morning session with some cautious batting. They couldn’t score freely with the Indians bowling tightly, but ensured that they hung in there and applied themselves at the crease. Chandimal though, got to his third consecutive half-century of the series, while Mathews closed in on a century, one which has evaded him since mid-2015. The morning session on Day 3 was the first one in the Test that belonged to Sri Lanka.

Soon after lunch, Mathews brought up his century, much to the delight of the Lankan camp who have been banking on their most experienced to get among the runs. The duo brought up their 100-run stand as well and were looking good to take Sri Lanka towards 300. As the session came to a close, India broke through with Mathews’ wicket, off Ashwin’s bowling. Sri Lanka went into Tea with their skipper, Chandimal on 98.

Right after Tea, Chandimal got to three figures, and had the burden of getting Sri Lanka to a safe total. Samarawickrama seemed to have settled in after he hit some gorgeous boundaries. They brought up the 50-stand, and the Lankans were on their way to building another partnership. However, Ishant Sharma brought an end to all hopes, having Samarawickrama caught behind. While Chandimal was batting fluently, the problem was at the other end, where wickets began to fall at quick pelt. Ashwin got the opening he was looking for with Mathews’ wicket in the previous session and got hold of Roshen Silva & Niroshan Dickwella for ducks. The Lankan tail couldn’t last long enough, as Chandimal tried his best to do all the weight-lifting. He was the last wicket to fall, on 164, bettering his previous best (162), also against India. Sri Lanka succeeded in avoiding the follow-on, but India led by 163.

Murali Vijay didn’t enjoy success in his second outing during this Test. He was dismissed for a single-digit score, and Rahane who was promoted so that he could score a few runs, fell cheaply too. Pujara came in at number 4 and played quite briskly. Surprisingly, it was Dhawan who took his time to settle in. On the other side of Lunch on Day 4, Pujara took on the Lankan bowlers and milked them with ease. He fell one short of a well-deserved half-century and was disappointed at losing his wicket.

Dhawan, who was celebrating his birthday, took his time until Virat Kohli walked in. He then opened his shoulders and found the boundaries with ease. He accelerated well and got to his half-century in no time. Kohli rotated strike at will, allowing Dhawan to go after the Lankan bowlers. He got stumped by Dickwella on 67 just when the lead passed 300. India went into Tea, four down, with Kohli & Rohit looking good at the crease. When they came out after the break, they played freely and the skipper got to his half-century. Kohli tried to go for the big hits soon after the milestone, but holed out in the deep. Team India waited for Rohit to score his second consecutive fifty, and declared on 246/5, with a lead of 409 runs.

With a few overs left on Day 4, Sri Lanka began their innings! Samarawickrama, who was back at the opening slot, fell for just 5 with a brute of a short ball by Shami. With light fading, and Kohli resorting to spin from both ends, Sri Lanka tried their best to get to stumps without losing any further wickets. Their plans were foiled by Jadeja who bowled two beautiful deliveries to get rid of Karunaratne and night-watchman, Suranga Lakmla in quick succession. Sri Lanka were reduced to 31/3 at stumps.

Mathews & de Silva began Day 5, looking to steer Sri Lanka to safety. Kohli employed a mixture of spin and pace from the two ends, with the ball in a semi-new state. Mathews looked like a totally different batsman from what he was in Sri Lanka’s first innings. He struggled to rotate strike and find runs. He was on 1 off 20 balls, when he went for a drive and nicked Jadeja to first slip. Ajinkya Rahane got his safe hands into play with a fine catch, dismissing the centurion from the first innigns.

Dinesh Chandimal, the other centurion from Sri Lanka’s last innings joined de Silva and averted the collapse. De Silva looked extremely positive and scored whenever the opportunity presented itself. Chandimla, on the other hand was watchful and took his time to settle in. A good partnership was brewing between the pair. Moments before lunch, Jadeja dismissed Chandimal with a stunning delivery that clipped a bail to the batsman’s surprise. The wicket was referred upstairs to check if it was a clean one or Saha’s gloves took the bail off. The third umpire found something else though. Jadeja had overstepped and Chandimal got a reprieve. Sri Lanka went into stumps on 119/4.

Post lunch, de Silva began on a positive note, going after Jadeja, first ball and finding the boundary. The Indian spinners were bowling in tandem, as the pitch provided enough purchase for both Jadeja & Ashwin. The latter struck with the crucial wicket of Chandimal, who advanced down the track, but missed the ball completely, thus getting bowled. De Silva looked solid at the other end and went on to score his third Test century.

Roshen Silva, who was making his Test debut, got out on a duck in the first innings, but got all nerves out of the way by defending neatly and providing valuable support to de Silva. Sri Lanka suffered a major setback when de Silva hurt his leg. In spite of getting tended to by the physio on several occasions, he was struggling and was forced to retire hurt. Niroshan Dickwella, their last recognized batsman walked out to join Roshen Silva.

With de Silva injured, and in the pavilion, India may have felt confident of finishing off the game by picking up the remaining wickets. However, Roshen Silva & Niroshan Dickwella had other ideas. The pair weren’t shy of using their feet to the spinners, and defended well against the pacers too. When runs were on offer, they were quick to pounce on the opportunity. Silva made the second innings of his Test career count, scoring a gritty half-century. Dickwella, on the other hand was more of the aggressor and scored at a good clip.

The Indian bowlers tried their best to pick up wickets, but Silva & Dickwella didn’t provide many opportunities. Saha did miss a stumping chance that could’ve got rid of Dickwella, but he couldn’t gather the ball. Sri Lanka will be proud of how the youngsters performed in the final innings. Dhananjaya de Silva was splendid with his century, and Roshen Silva showed grit on debut to deny India their second victory of the series. India did win the series, and were the better team for most parts of the 3-match series. Sri Lanka have been a side that have improved from their 3-0 drubbing in their own backyard at India’s hands earlier this year. We move on to the 3-match ODI series, where Rohit captains India, while Thisara Perera captains Sri Lanka. The first ODI is on Sunday, 10th December, at 11:30 AM.

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