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NEW DELHI: The drama that unfolded in the second session of day two of the third Test match between India and Sri Lanka wasn’t a pretty sight. While Virat Kohli entertained the 15,000 strong Sunday crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla with a marathon knock of 243, unfortunately the Indian skipper’s innings was overshadowed by the play being halted repeatedly owing to poor air quality in the area, which eventually led to India declaring their first innings prematurely at 536 for 7. But India didn’t let up, snaring two quick wickets before Angelo Mathews (57*) kept one end tight to take Sri Lanka to 131 for three at stumps on day two, trailing India by 405 runs.
Before the start of day, all the talk was about Kohli scalping yet another milestone with a double century. It didn’t really matter that he was still 44 runs away – and it actually didn’t, as Kohli surpassed Brian Lara as captain with most 200 plus scores in the first session for his sixth double century. The Sri Lankan bowlers would have hoped to ride on the late momentum provided by Lakshan Sandakan who had scalped Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane on day one, but all that hope was dashed by Rohit Sharma who scored at a fair clip to allow Kohli to settle. Kohli eventually reached the milestone pulling one to midwicket taking a couple to reach his sixth double century in just over 17 months, as India went past the 450-run mark. Soon after, Sharma got to his eighth Test fifty with a six over the bowler’s head.
But at the stroke of lunch, Sharma went after a wide one from Sandakan and the delivery took the bottom edge of the bat to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, handing the left-arm spinner his third wicket of the match. The Kohli-Sharma association yielded 135 runs for the fifth wicket.
There was certain haze over the stadium right from the morning, but with the sun not coming out in the post-lunch session, Sri Lanka players led by Chandimal protested to the on-field umpires Nigell Long and Joel Wilson about playing conditions. It all started with SL players taking to the field post-lunch wearing masks and roughly after 30 minutes in to play, Gamage looked in trouble and play was halted for 13 minutes. Play resumed after the umpires got in to a huddle with the skippers, but India lost Ravichandran Ashwin immediately.
Kohli, starting the session at 225, went past his personal best of 235 and then posted the highest individual score at the Kotla, before being undone by a sharp turner from Sandakan. That brief stoppage of play had distracted him.
With Ravindra Jadeja and Wriddhiman Saha in the middle, Lakmal walked off with one ball remaining in his over. Confusion ensued as Dilruwan Perera completed the over and it was when Sandakan was about to bowl the final delivery of the next over, that Sri Lanka realised that they were one person short in the field. With Lakmal and Gamage out of the field and Sadeera Samarawickrama advised rest for the day after being hit on the helmet grill the day before, Chandimal realised his gaffe and walked up to Long once again.
Another mid-pitch conference this time with SL team manager, Pothas and Shastri failed to reach any conclusion, even as some one from the SL team management put on the whites to come out as a substitute fielder. Seeing all this unfold, Kohli decided to declare and let his bowlers have a crack and most certainly make a statement. And statement was made, when Mohammad Shami produced a peach of a delivery first up – a back of length outside of delivery with a hint of away movement – that had Dimuth Karunaratne edging one to wicketkeeper Saha. Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled with venom.
In the final session, India’s intensity in the field even as Shami and Ishant bowled probing lines. Two catches were dropped in the slips cordon by Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan while a couple more just landed short of Rahane and Pujara. Perera, opening the absence of Samarawickrama, chanced his arms and made 42 off 54 deliveries, finding the rope nine times before he was trapped in front Jadeja. Angelo Mathews, one the fielders to wear the mask while fielding, found the going tough, not because of the air quality, but owing to the better quality of the Indian bowlers, but the former SL skipper withered the early storm and capitalised in the loose deliveries to get to his fifty and lead his team’s change alongside side Chandimal, who remained unbeaten on 25* at close of play.
: Sri Lanka 131/3 (Mathews 57) trail India 536/7 dec. (Kohli 243, Vijay 155; Sandakan 4/167) by 405 runs