Sri Lanka 356 for 9 (Chandimal 147*, Mathews 111, Ashwin 3-90) trail India 536 for 7 dec by 180 runs
Having kept it locked up all through this tour, Sri Lanka finally reminded everyone of the batting quality they possess, as centuries from Dinesh Chandimal and, at long last, Angelo Mathews helped them avoid the follow-on at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Given how long they were kept on the field, India would probably not have enforced the follow-on anyway. The Chandimal-Mathews partnership alone consumed 79.1 overs.
And yet, once they found a way past that stand – having missed numerous opportunities to do so previously – India reasserted their dominance. R Ashwin, underbowled for most of the innings, led the way, taking three wickets on a pitch that only gave the spinners modest assistance, and the other three bowlers made valuable incisions too. Wriddhiman Saha, on a day when India’s catchers kept letting down their bowlers, made three quality grabs behind the wicket.
Having got through the first session wicketless, and nearly doing so again in the second, Sri Lanka lost wickets in a clump, sliding from 317 for 5 and ending the day at 356 for 9, with Chandimal still at the crease on an outstanding unbeaten 147.
Right since his belated introduction on the second afternoon – he only came on in the 28th over – Ashwin had worried Mathews with his round-the-wicket angle, getting the ball to dip and land on an awkward length that made it difficult to deal with his natural variation. Some balls turned in, others carried on with the angle. The dismissal arrived courtesy the one that kept going across Mathews, who sent a thin edge through to Saha, who made a difficult chance look easy.
It was a moment of joy for Ashwin, and perhaps one of vindication too, for this was only his 19th over of the innings. Ravindra Jadeja, at that point, had bowled 34, Ishant Sharma 23, and Mohammed Shami 22. Perhaps the presence of two right-hand batsmen at the crease for such a long period had made Virat Kohli reluctant to turn to his offspinner, but again he had shown his ability to threaten both edges of the bat.
As always, Ashwin began finding more bite from the pitch after getting a few overs under his belt and understanding what pace to bowl at, with what trajectory. On this Kotla pitch, he began delivering his offbreaks with far more overspin than sidespin. This overspin, which led to dip and bounce, sent Roshen Silva on his way for a duck on debut, caught bat-pad. Two wickets, two right-handers. The next one was a left-hander, Niroshan Dickwella, who lost his off stump while trying to cut Ashwin’s round-the-wicket arm ball.
Chandimal added a brisk 61 with Sadeera Samarawickrama, who came out at No. 6, having been off the field since being hit on the helmet at short leg on day one. Having hit seven fours in an attractive 33, however, he edged Ishant while chasing at a widish ball, and Saha dived to his right to take a spectacular low one-hander. A little later, another dive to his right sent back Suranga Lakmal, who edged an away-seamer from Shami.
More to follow