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NEW DELHI: The spark that was missing in the entire series from Sri Lanka came to the fore in the second session of day three of the third Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi, led by their two most experienced and talented batsmen in Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, who stone-walled the Indian attack with enough fortitude that made them bat out 477 deliveries – the most for any pair against India – after Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling’s 738-ball effort in Wellington way back in 2014. The duo put on 181 runs for the fourth wicket. But Ravichandran Ashwin broke through minutes before tea, scalping Mathews for 111. When tea was taken, Sri Lanka had reached 270 for four, trailing India by 266 runs.
With all the pollution saga that dominated the proceedings on day two behind, the Sri Lanka duo did their best to bring back an entertaining passage of Test match cricket. Not quite a battle attrition, as Indian lost their intensity, something that was lacking from yesterday afternoon when they grassed quite a few chances at slips. Mathews registered his eighth Test century, but he should consider this one, one of his lucky innings. He was beaten umpteen times by both Ishant and Shami, none of them inducing an edge, and even when he edged it, Rohit Sharma put down another regulation catch at the second slip. Mathews was on 98.
For their part, Indian pacers stuck to their morning session plan of banging in the ball short, but the well-set Chandimal was up for the task. Ravichandran Ashwin was probing so was Ravindra Jadeja. Third over in to the second session, Ashwin got a quicker one to beat Chandimal’s forward prod and ensuing appeal resulted in a review by India. At first glance, India would not have taken the review; but maybe out of desperation or frustration they took it, and lost the review.
Two overs later, Jadeja fired one in that spun from middle to off and Mathews just about managed to get his bat down. The ball hit the bat low, but zoomed between wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha’s legs. Chandimal was much more confident and free-flowing than his senior partner, taking two boundaries of one Shami over after the new ball was taken.
Chances continued to come India’s way, when Mathews, deceived by Jadeja’s flighted delivery, flat-batted one towards mid-off, where a leaping substitute fielder Vijay Shankar failed to time his jump as the ball went between his hands. And amidst this Sri Lanka fight back, visuals of Indian fielder Murali Vijay signalling that he has trouble breathing did raise a few eyebrows, but there was nothing more to indicate that the air quality issue could creep back.
As the session went on, India bowlers looked tired and Sri Lanka went past the 250-run mark, but when it looked the Sri Lankan duo will go in to tea with yet another wicketless session, Ashwin got one to skid off a length and Mathews, trying to play the ball to midwicket, got a faint edge that was well taken by Saha behind the stumps. Sadeera Samarawickrama walked out to the middle and played out four overs before tea was taken, Chandimal remained unbeaten on 98.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 270/4 (Mathews 111, Chandimal 98*; Jadeja 1/63) trail India 536/7 dec. (Kohli 243, Vijay 155; Sandakan 4/167) by 266 runs