Monday – It took the Delhi air pollution to bring about a change to Sri Lanka’s batting woes as they put up their best performance of the series to dent the Indian bowling to the extent that they finished the third day of the third and final cricket Test on 356 for nine wickets in reply to India’s 536-7 declared at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Monday.
For Sri Lanka to make a turnaround in their fortunes they required their two best batters Angelo Mathews and skipper Dinesh Chandimal to produce something big which they had not done so far in the series.
Angelo Mathews celebrates his eighth Test century at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi. AFP
So yesterday this pair rose to the occasion to bring the smiles back on the Lankan supporters who have been passionately following them through thick and thin with each of them scoring contrasting centuries and figuring in a fourth wicket partnership of 181 off 477 balls that eventually made it a contest.
There were many firsts in the partnership as it was the first time two Lankan batsmen had put together a century stand in the series and also batted throughout a session (morning) without losing a wicket.
Mathews without a Test hundred for two years broke the drought finally reaching it off 231 balls with 12 fours and two sixes but it was easily not his best innings.
He had to graft for the runs and was fortunate to be dropped at 98 when he edged a delivery from Ishant Sharma only to see the other Sharma in the side Rohith spill an easy chance at second slip. Soon after completing his hundred (104) he was again missed at mid-off by substitute fielder Vijay Shankar off Jadeja.
Overall, Mathews had three lucky escapes with Kohli having dropped him at six on the second day. Cricket they say is a game of luck and Mathews deserved every bit of luck that came his way to score this eighth Test hundred (third against India) which would have lifted a heavy burden off his shoulders. Being the most senior batsman in the side he was under a lot of pressure to deliver.
Mathews’ dismissal brought Sadeera Samarawickrama who was medically cleared to play in the morning. But after helping his captain to raise a stand of 61 for the fifth wicket he went fishing and edged a catch behind the wicket to be dismissed for 33.
India came back strongly when Ashwin made short work of debutant Roshen Silva and Niroshan Dickwella scalping them before they could get off the mark. Silva made a third ball duck on his Test debut and Dickwella played a rash shot attempting to cut a straight ball even before he had settled down. Shami got rid of Suranga Lakmal for five forcing an edge to give Saha his fourth catch of the innings and Jadeja accounted for Lahiru Gamage for one.
Chandimal could only watch helplessly at the other end as all the hard work done with Mathews becoming undone.
The Lankan captain played a flawless innings in comparison to Mathews’ patchy knock - full of concentration mixed with moments of caution and aggression that took him to his tenth Test hundred off 265 balls (13 fours) and second against India. He stayed long enough to take Sri Lanka past the follow-on score of 337 and remain unconquered at the close on 147 scored off 341 balls with 18 fours and a six. Sri Lanka trail India by 180 runs with one wicket standing and two days of the match left. India leads the three-match series 1-0.