Wednesday: The Sri Lankan batting which has been spineless in the last five Tests against India finally displayed its true colours to bat out the entire fifth and final day and deny the number one ranked Test team victory in the third and final cricket Test played at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday.
Set an improbable target of 410 to chase in the fourth innings, Sri Lanka finished on 299 for five wickets to earn an honourable draw. The match was called off in mutual consent between the two teams at the final drinks break at 4 pm.
India however won the three-match series 1-0 having won the second Test at Nagpur. The first Test played in Kolkata also ended in a draw. It was a tremendous comeback by the Lankan team after suffering their heaviest Test defeat in history by an innings and 239 runs at Nagpur.
The hero for Sri Lanka was Dhananjaya de Silva who on his return to the Sri Lanka team hit a plucky century against all odds before he was forced to retire hurt suffering from glute tightness on his left leg with his score on 119. At that stage Sri Lanka were still not out of the woods so to say at 205-5 and 30 overs still remained to be bowled in the match.
It was left to Roshen Silva the debutant and Niroshan Dickwella to see Sri Lanka through with the second new ball that was taken an over before the tea break. With the spinners not getting any purchase from the wicket except the rough, India’s chances of winning largely depended on the second new ball for the breakthrough.
However, Silva who was out for a third-ball duck in the first innings and Dickwella negotiated it successfully and steered Sri Lanka safely towards a draw with an unbroken half-century partnership.
Silva batted stoically showing great determination and immense character to make the most of what has been a long journey for him. He made it this far into the Test team after being close to selection on several occasions and suffering the frustrations of not being picked.
At the other end, Dickwella playing his natural game, took his chances to remain unbeaten on 44.
Silva’s contribution was 74 not out off 154 balls punctuated with 11 fours. He became the fourth Sri Lankan batsman to score a half-century in the second innings after being dismissed for a duck in the first on a Test debut. Roy Dias (0 & 77 v England, P Sara Oval, 1982), Athula Samarasekara (0 & 57 v England, Lord’s 1988) and Dimuth Karunaratne (0 & 60 n.o. v New Zealand, Galle, 2012) are the ones to have done so before him.
Sri Lanka certainly didn’t have the luck they deserved for of all days at the start of play there was bright sunshine and it was a clear day unlike the fog filled previous four days.
India achieved an early breakthrough in the fourth over of the morning when Ravindra Jadeja had Angelo Mathews edging a delivery to Rahane at slip for one. Mathews and Sri Lanka were unlucky that umpire Joe Wilson of West Indies missed signalling the delivery a no-ball as Jadeja had clearly overstepped the crease.
Umpires always check the validity of a no-ball on fast bowlers when a batsman is dismissed but they have been rather lenient in the case of spinners thinking that they bowl at a slower pace and so they seldom bowl a no-ball.
Chandimal however was lucky on that count for when he was bowled by an unplayable Jadeja delivery at 24 the umpire had the sense to check on the delivery and lo and behold it turned out to be another no-ball.
Chandimal, given a reprieve, went onto score 36 priceless runs for his side and figure in a stand of 112 with De Silva before Ashwin beat him in flight and bowled him.
De Silva at the other end played a classy innings bringing up his third Test fifty off a fine on drive off Ashwin in 92 balls with eight fours and a six and continued to delight with some superb batting with pulls cuts and drives to complete a fine century off 188 balls with 13 fours and a six which even the Indian fielders including captain Kohli applauded.
It was a chanceless knock and only after passing hundred (110) did he show a hint of desperation when he launched into a drive and Ashwin failed to hold onto the hard return catch. By now De Silva was struggling with his leg and virtually limping and eventually was forced to leave the field breaking a 58-run liaison for the sixth wicket with Roshen Silva.
De Silva became the first Sri Lankan batsman in the last 10 years to score a fourth innings century in away Tests.
The last to do was Kumar Sangakkara when he scored that magnificent 192 against Australia at Hobart in Nov 2007.
Kohli was made Man of the Match for his double century and he also won the Man of the Series with an aggregate of 610 runs.
The two teams now commence a three-match ODI series starting at Dharamsala on December 10.