Ace spinner R Ashwin’s two wickets before dusk on day two put India into another advantageous position under the overcast sky at Colombo. Coming into day three, the visitors maintained their dominance as an embattled Sri Lankan side was dismantled for 183 in their first innings, thus having to face a follow-on.
The fourth ball of day three triggered another spineless performance by the hosts, when Ravindra Jadeja sent back skipper Dinesh Chandimal with an outside edge, caught by Hardik Pandya at square leg.
From thereon, it was a complete weak-willed batting from the Islanders. Just when it seemed that Niroshan Dickwella had found his rhythm with his counter-punching 48-ball 51, he deflected the ball onto the stumps to give the Indian pacers an equal share in the wicket-taking business on an unresponsive pitch. Mohammed Shami sent back Dickwella and Rangana Herath (2), while Umesh Yadav accounted for Kusal Mendis (24). An abysmal Mendis gave an easy catch to Virat Kohli in his attempt to go over the top, but compensated for it in the second innings in which he scored a fine century.
Kohli dropped Angelo Mathews (26) twice and the lifeline provided helped the former captain and Dickwella stitch a 53-run partnership. But the resistance was soon put to a halt by Ashwin, when Mathews flicked the ball for Cheteshwar Pujara to take a skilful catch at leg-slip.
Pace spearhead Nuwan Pradeep (0) sprung up a surprise, not with an unexpected blinder, but by walking out to bat despite being reported to be ruled out of the series due to a hamstring injury. His stay at the crease lasted for two overs before Ashwin bowled him.
The Indian spinners were as ruthless as they have always been. On a dusty SSC pitch, R Ashwin pocket his 26th five-wicket haul with his cunning variations. Jadeja, on the other hand, earned his 150th Test wicket when he sent back Dhananjaya de Silva for a first-ball duck with a peach of a delivery which clipped the bails. The Gujarat all-rounder is now the second fastest Indian to reach 150 Test wickets, behind his spin partner Ashwin.
The Indian bowlers were kept at bay in the third session as Kusal Mendis (110) and Dimuth Karunaratne (92) led Sri Lanka’s revival. Mendis got to this ton in only 120 balls, during the course of which he hit 16 fours. But soon later, the No. 3 batsman handed an easy catch to Saha off Hardik Pandya’s bowling and walked back disappointed.
Earlier, Upal Tharanga (2) registered yet another single digit score after being bowled by Umesh Yadav. The hosts ended on 209-2 at stumps, and cheered up the fans who were left red-faced after the debacle that unfolded before lunch. Karunaratne and Malinda Pushpakumara (2*) will resume play on day four.