NEW DELHI : Starting day five of the third and final India vs Sri Lanka Test at 31 for three, the visitors faced an uphill task in order to save the match at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi; and they did a commendable job with Dhaananjaya de Silva (119) and Roshen Silva (74*) bringing fortitude to the fore that was missing from Sri Lanka for most part of the three-match series. After just about managing to draw the first Test and handing India their joint-biggest win in terms of runs in the second, Sri Lanka batted out of their skins to keep the Indians at bay, who could only manage two wickets in pursuit of seven for the win. That was not to be, as India will now head to South Africa for tough Test series with 1-0 series victory at home.
And the magnitude of Sri Lanka’s fight back can be gauged by the fact that their fourth innings score of 299 for five is the highest ever by a touring party in the fourth innings of a Test match in India.
Set a target of 410, a win for Sri Lanka was out of the equation, but a loss looked highly likely when they lost their most experienced batsman in Angelo Mathews six overs in to the day. But Dhananjaya and Roshen, aided by able support from skipper Dinesh Chandimal (36) and wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella (44*) staved off the Indian attack. The day five Kolta pitch was a placid one as opposed to what Indian skipper Virat Kohli would have hoped for. He employed his spinners for most part of the day and while both Ravinchandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled their hearts out, wickets were hard to come by.
Jadeja did raise hopes when the left-armer tossed up a wide one and Mathews tentatively prodded at that, only managing an edge. Ajinkya Rahane took a sharp catch at slips. However, later on the replays showed that Jadeja had overstepped and on-filed umpire Joel Wilson had missed it.
Nevertheless, Jadeja overstepped once again as he bowled a peach of a delivery to SL skipper Chandimal, which could have been a big break during that passage of play. Jadeja ripped one on middle and off; Chandimal came forward trying to defend a straighter one and on cue the ball just about spun away missing Chandimal’s bat and hit the top of off stump. Umpire Wilson, who had failed to spot the earlier no-ball that yielded Mathews’ wicket went upstairs and the replays showed that Jadeja overstepped ever so slightly. 31 overs were bowled in the session with SL losing just one wicket and scoring 88 runs with Dhanajaya taking nine boundaries en route to his third Test fifty. Chandimal also started off tentatively with Jadeja finding enough purchase from the track. However, Ashwin looked lacklustre and the lack of support for Jadeja meant that pressure was built from only one side.
The confidence with which Dhananjaya batted in the first session was carried forward to the second when the right-hand batsman danced down the track to Jadeja of the first ball after the break to earn himself a boundary. Two more in the next two overs signalled that even though a win for SL was out of the equation, they would not stone-wall the proceedings, at least not Dhananjaya. But the batting fluency he had in the first was hampered by persistent gluteal muscles pain. Jadeja and Ashwin operated for most part of the session and they looked threatening throughout.
Chandimal was undone by a beautiful drifter of a delivery from Ashwin and departed for 39. Chandimal had been charging down the track to good length deliveries, but Ashwin tossed this on up, dragged the length back and found the opening between Chandimal’s bat and pad as the ball thudded on to the off stump. The skipper’s dismissal gave India the opening. Roshen, the debutant, who got out for a duck in the first innings joined Dhananjaya in the middle. But he applied himself well and combined with his settled partner to further frustrate Indian spinner.
Dhananjaya battled hard to reach his third Test hundred, but had to walk off retired hurt after scoring 119 off 219 deliveries. The Fifth wicket association yielded 58 runs, but more importantly consumed 126 deliveries. With no demons visible on the Kotla pitch, it was just a matter of time and keeping the concentration for the Sri Lankan players to play out the mandatory overs. Dickwella and Roshen did exactly that. The key for both the batsmen was not to get into a shell, defending every ball and play for time. The took their chances and ran between the wickets hard, not allowing Indian bowlers to settle down. By the time, the game was declared a draw, Dickwella had played out 72 deliveries and Roshen, a remarkable 154 that included 11 boundaries.
Brief Scores : Sri Lanka 29/5 (Dhananjaya 119 rt; Roshen Silva 74*; Jadeja 3/81) & 373 (Chandimal 164, Mathews 111; Ashwin 3/90) drew with India India 536/7 dec. (Kohli 243, Vijay 155; Sandakan 4/167 & 246/5 dec. (Dhawan 67, Rohit 50*; Dhananjaya 1/30)