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sl save match, but india bag series
With the sun finally shining brightly at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium for the final day of the third Test between India and Sri Lanka, the visitors produced another solid batting performance to draw the game and thereby keep India's victory margin in the series to 1-0. As a result the home team collected its ninth successive series victory on Wednesday.
Chasing a target of 410, the Lankans lost only two wickets in the entire day and had reached a score of 299/5 after battling for 103 overs in their second innings when the two teams decided to bring curtains down on the game and the series.
The star of the day for the visitors was Dhananjaya de Silva (119 retired hurt) with his brilliant hundred. Debutant Roshan Silva (74*) also played a major role in taking his team to safety.
It was clear right from the beginning of the game that Indian bowlers will have to work really hard to get the remaining seven wickets for victory. The pitch had hardly deteriorated and the ball was coming on to the bat nicely, both against seamers and spinners.
Overnight batsmen de Silva and Angelo Matthews set out on the task of rescuing their team after they suffered a mini-collapse towards the end of Day 4. India got the early breakthrough they wanted with Jadeja getting a delivery to spin and bounce sharply, a rare occurrence on this wicket, and picking up the prized scalp of Matthews in the 22nd over. At 35/4, the Lankan fans must have feared another humiliation at the hands of the Indians but their captain, fresh off a career-best score in the first innings, brought calmness to the wicket. Chandimal was looking in fine form again and was dealing with both seam and spin bowlers without much difficulty.
De Silva, who got to his fifty in 92 balls, gave his skipper good company and the two put up a 50-run partnership in 89 balls.
Ravichandran Ashwin was bowling a bit short allowing the batsmen to play him off the back-foot most of the time.
Something special was needed to break this flow and it came in the form of a magnificent delivery from Jadeja which turned sharply to beat Chandimal's outside edge and clip the off stump. Alas, it turned out to be a no-ball!
But the Indian spinners did cause some difficulty which the batsmen countered by stepping out often. They survived and took their team to lunch at the score of 119/4.
After lunch, the pair used their positive footwork to keep the Indian bowlers at bay until Ashwin bowled a regulation off break to which Chandimal charged and allowed the ball to spin through the gap between his bat and pad to hit the stumps.
The Lankan captain departed for 36 off 90 balls after putting up a partnership of 112 for the fifth wicket.
The wicket was achieved off a delivery bowled outside the off stump — the traditional off spinners' line — but for some strange reason, instead of bowling this, he kept bowling a straight line.
He then went round the wicket to de Silva and tried to tie him up for runs. The plan succeeded to some extent as the batsman tried to break free and charged down the wicket and smashed the ball back at him where the tweaker couldn't hold on to the difficult catch.
Apart from this half-chance, the spinners weren't causing much trouble as only the odd ball was turning. Ashwin was even going for runs.
Debutant Roshen Silva, coming in to bat after Chandimal's wicket gave valuable support to de Silva and the two prevented India from making further inroads for a substantial time.
With the slower bowlers looking ineffective and the new ball not too far away, Kohli decided to experiment by bringing himself and Murali Vijay into the attack.
At this crucial juncture, Lanka received a big blow with the centurion de Silva, who was in some physical discomfort and receiving treatment for it, was forced to leave the field due to muscle strain.
Kohli sensed an opening and brought Ashwin and Jadeja back to capitalize on the opportunity.
But Niroshan Dickwella, the new batsman, and Silva remained positive and blunted the Indian spinners attack once again.
Therefore, Kohli had no hesitation in taking the new ball as soon as it was available. The Lankans entered the final session with the score at 226/5 and a batsman down with injury. The spells of Ishant and Shami with the new ball assumed great importance.
Dickwella, not able to curb his attacking instincts, played an expansive drive against Ishant which resulted in an edge that flew past the slip cordon. Another nick from him went through the gap between third slip and gully.
But Silva was looking assured at the other end and Dickwella was getting better also. The Indian seamers, on their part, were bowling a bit wide and with there being no great movement for them, the Lankan batsmen seemed to be in no great trouble.
Thus after seven overs from seamers, Kohli went back to Jadeja and four overs later brought Ashwin on as well. This was the last roll of the dice for the Indians.
Ashwin looked as innocuous as before but Jadeja created some opportunities. Twice, Wriddhiman Saha missed a stumping opportunity offered by Dickwella off his bowling.
Dickwella seemed to develop a strange obsession with sweeping the spinners in spite of constantly failing in the process. Apart from this, the batsmen looked safe and with just over half-an-hour remaining in the game, Kohli decided to settle for a draw.
India won the series but the 1-0 score line is probably not what they expected. Virat Kohli was, unsurprisingly, both the man of the match and man of the series.
The biggest disappointment for India was the performance of the two spinners. While Jadeja (38-13-81-3) was doing his usual job of bowling a tight line and length and even got the odd ball to turn and bounce, Ashwin (35-3-126-1) was unable to build any pressure. His persistence with bowling stump to stump and also, has been his problem in the past, excessive experimentation made him quite ineffective.
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