An unfazed India, after clinching the series 2-0, looked prime for a whitewash in the morning session of the third and concluding Test at the Pallekele International Stadium in Kandy. But after the first half of the first day, Sri Lanka pulled up their socks to break India’s habit of scoring 600 plus runs, which has been a norm in most of their recent first innings.
The drabness of Sri Lanka’s bowling attack came to the fore yet again as the Indian batsmen dominated in the morning session of the dead rubber, until the hosts finally found their way back after lunch.
Openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan justified captain Kohli’s decision to bat first after examining the wicket, with their unbeaten half centuries that took India to 134 for none before lunch. KL Rahul became the first Indian and sixth in world cricket to hit seven successive half-centuries in Tests.
The Sri Lankan revival
The Sri Lankan bowlers made the most of the 40 minute lunch break, in which they reassessed all that went wrong in the morning session, and found their way back into the game soon later.
Changes in the bowling were brought and two left-arm spinners plotted India’s unexpected batting collapse. Malinda Pushpakumara, playing only his second international game, along with Lakshan Sandakan, made India’s dominance stutter by taking four quick wickets. Shikhar Dhawan, after scoring a fine century (119), KL Rahul (85) and India’s batting mainstays in whites, Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (17) were all dismissed in quick succession.
Dhawan, though, was the pillar of India’s early supremacy. His century took him only 107 balls and was laced by 15 fours! With two centuries in the series, the limited-overs specialist is surely giving nightmares to Rohit Sharma.
Kohli thrives on challenges, but not this time
Virat Kohli (42) and his trusted spin aide Ravi Ashwin were left with little liberty to play fearless cricket. Just when it seemed that the Indian skipper, who thrives on challenges, would put up yet another show of defensive cricket, Sandakan lured him to drive away from his body. Kohli took the invitation and drove, but could only edge it to first slip. A couple of overs later, Ashwin too departed on 31, courtesy an excellent catch from Niroshan Dickwella off Vishwa Fernando’s bowling.
India ended the day on 329 for 6. The responsibility now rests on wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (13*) and all-rounder Hardik Pandya (1*), both of whom are no mug with the bat.