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NEW DELHI: After opting to bat first, Virat Kohli did concede that there would be some assistance for the bowlers early on and despite their lack of accuracy, Sri Lanka walked in to lunch on day one of the third and the final Test between India and Sri Lanka with two big wickets in the bag. However, India managed to score at a fair clip (116 in the first session), setting themselves up for what would prove to a dominating day of play. India added 129 runs in the post-lunch session and further 126 in the final session, but they lost two wickets late in the day.
Kohli (156*) notched up his 20th Test century while donning the aggressor’s role and Murali Vijay (155) brought up his 11th triple-figure score, playing second fiddle. The duo added 283 runs for the third wicket and India went on to finish the day at 371 for four.
For the brief while Kohli batted in the first session, he showed what a good batting surface was laid out at the Kotla. Vijay too was seldom troubled – aided by Suranga Lakmal’s inconsistency and Lahiru Gamage’s military medium – a reminder of the opportunity wasted by Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara to get some runs on a belter of a wicket.
SL skipper Dinesh Chandimal would have hoped that his spinners would pull thing back after the pacers failed to make any substantial impact. In the absence of Ranana Herath, Dilruwan Perera was the lead spinner alongside wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan and spin bowling allrounder – Dhananjaya de Silva. But, the script went awry for the visitors with Perera leaking 97 runs in his 21 overs, while Sandakan gave away 110 runs in his 23.
Perera was lucky enough to pick up his 100th Test wicket in the form of Dhawan in the first session, when the left-hander top edged a sweep to deep backward square leg, but after that, luck evaded Perera and he himself bowled with lack of intent. Chandimal used his bowlers in short burst that helped him with the wicket of Pujara. Taking four boundaries during his stay for 39 deliveries, Pujara was seldom challenged, but a Gamage legside delivery prompted the Saurashtra player to play a leg glance only to find Sadeera Samarawickrama take a sharp catch at gully.
Left-arm spinner Sandakan did not get his radar right at first and even though he had a few good balls, those were sandwiched between quite a few loose deliveries that Kohli and Vijay pounced on. Starting the session on 17 off 22, Kohli ploughed into Lakmal with two boundaries in an over, en route to completing 5000 Test runs – the 11th Indian to do so and then got three boundaries in one Gamage over to complete his 15th Test fifty in just 52 deliveries. At the other end, Vijay was calm and composed and got to his 16th Test fifty.
As the session went on, SL continued to lag behind as Kohli and Vijay got enough space to take easy singles and every opportunity to find the rope was capitalised by the duo. They went past the 150-run mark in the partnership for the third wicket and soon after Vijay notched up his 11th Test hundred with a cracking drive off the backfoot for a boundary. Kohli followed suit with his 20th Test century immediately after tea.
In the final session, Kohli and Vijay once again pummelled the runs before Sandakan came back to life and four overs before the close of play, the left-arm spinner produced one that prompted Vijay to come forward and then spun away and Niroshan Dickwella whipped the bails with Vijay’s back leg on the popping crease. Vijay’s marathon innings of five hours and 45 minutes came to an end and an over later, similar sequence was played out this time with Ajinkya Rahane (1) and India lost their fourth wicket. Kohli, at the other, end remained unbeaten on 156.