The quick strikes by Sri Lanka’s pacers late on the third day had opened up a world of possibilities, but a combined effort by India’s batsmen helped the visitors wrest control over the third Test in Colombo on Monday (August 31).
Led by half-centuries from R Ashwin (58) and Rohit Sharma (50), and contributions from Stuart Binny (49), Naman Ojha (35) and Amit Mishra (39), India were bowled out for 274 and set Sri Lanka a target of 386 to win the series-decider.
India started the day on a precarious 21 for 3, but gradually moved ahead with a string of useful partnerships. Rohit added a couple of contrasting half-century partnerships in the first session with Virat Kohli and Binny, before the lower order chipped in to put India in a commanding position.
The day started with Rohit and Kohli reviving India’s innings with a stubborn 57-run stand for the fourth wicket. Sri Lanka tested Kohli’s patience with an outside offstump line of attack, and the Indian captain resisted temptation for a while, before perishing in familiar fashion, edging Nuwan Pradeep to first slip.
Rohit, however, carried on, with an attacking Binny for company. Boundaries were found regularly – through Rohit’s elegant drives and Binny’s outside edges – and India’s lead swelled at a quick rate. Rohit crossed his half-century and just when it looked like he would make it big, the right-hand batsman threw it away, pulling Dhammika Prasad to fine leg just before lunch.
Rohit’s exit resulted in a momentary dip in scoring rate but Binny and Ojha carried on the good work in the post-lunch session with a 42-run stand. Binny, who had a reprieve on 25 when Kusal Perera missed a stumping chance off Rangana Herath, raced towards his half-century but fell tantalisingly short, edging Prasad to slip, where Upul Tharanga took a sharp catch diving to his left.
Prasad could have had another in his next over, but Jehan Mubarak, the substitute fielder, dropped a tough catch off Mishra at gully when the batsman was on 2. Ojha then fell, slicing Herath to cover while looking for a slog across the line, but any hopes of a swift end to India’s innings were killed when Ashwin joined Mishra.
The duo batted on without much trouble and added 55 more, before some smart work by Kaushal Silva ended Mishra’s stay at the stroke of tea. Mishra flicked Tharindu Kaushal and set off for a single, only to find Silva fielding the ball at forward short-leg and flicking it back to catch Mishra short with a direct hit.
Mishra, however, had done his job and by then, Sri Lanka’s bowlers were waiting for a declaration. Ashwin piled on their agony with some typically fluent and classy strokeplay, cutting and driving his way to a half-century.
Every run deflated Sri Lanka further and the only interesting phase came in what turned out to be the final over of the innings, when Prasad, Dinesh Chandimal and Ishant Sharma were involved in a heated verbal exchange. It all ended though, when Ashwin edged the final ball of the over to the ‘keeper.
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