Indians wrest initiative

Cricket Second Test : Kohli's men extend lead by 157 runs after Mathews' fighting ton
Last Updated 22 August 2015, 19:19 IST

 India weathered a brilliant century from Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews with a superb post-lunch performance to inch forward in the slow-moving second Test match here on Saturday.

Kept at bay by the obdurate Lahiru Thirimanne (62 runs, 168 balls, 5x4) and the in-form Mathews (102, 167b, 12x4) in the entire morning session, the Indians came storming back right after the break to eventually end the Sri Lankan challenge for 306 in 108 overs just a little after tea at the P Sara Oval.

Having taken a healthy lead, the Indians lost first innings centurion KL Rahul in the very first over of their second essay but Murali Vijay (39 batting) and Ajinkya Rahane (28 batting) saw off two hours of play and some fading light to help them reach a healthy 70/1 for a 157-run advantage at stumps on day three.

Starting the day at 140/3, the pair of Thirimanne and Mathews came out with a definitive plan. While Thirimannane  focussed on spending as much time in the middle as possible, Mathews looked comfortable for most of his stay, mixing caution with a bit of aggression.
The Indians strived hard on a slow-paced track but with little return. Pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav kept going hard at Thirimanne and Mathews but neither buckled under pressure. Even medium pacer Stuart Binny too kept plugging at them for most parts, managing to square Mathews a couple of times, but a wicket never came.

R Ashwin’s long testing spell and Amit Mishra’s fine show too yielded nothing as Thirimanne and Mathews cut out all the big shots and presented a big bat. Only when the Indians started to get frustrated and ended up bowling a few loose balls, they began to attack as they broke for lunch at 224/3.

Ishant, with the second new ball in his hand, kick-started his post-lunch spell with some short-pitched stuff but all of them were easily deposited to the boundary by Mathews, the over yielding 12 runs. The experienced campaigner then quickly realised his mistake and altered his length to infuse life into the Indians.

He suckered Thirimanne into a drive, the ball taking a faint edge to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha as Lankans stood at 241/4. A spell of rain then halted play for 33 minutes but the Indians came back roaring after that intervention as well. Dinesh Chandimal, the scorer of a century in the Galle Test, fell to Ishant in the immediacy of resumption when he drove and edged the ball to KL Rahul, who fumbled and took it on the second attempt.

It was then up to Mathews to carry the hosts forward and despite being tentative in the 90s, he brought up his sixth century — fifth as a captain — with an audacious reverse sweep of Ashwin. But he was sent packing even before the celebrations could die down by Binny finally got his maiden Test wicket in his fourth appearance. The Indians then cleaned up the tail in quick succession, the last seven wickets costing just 65 runs with Mishra (4/43) accounting for three of those, including a peach to dismiss Jehan Mubarak.

With two hours of play left, the Indians had a great chance to drive home the advantage completely but Rahul fell to Dhammika Prasad in the very first over of the innings. Late on his shot, the ball took an inside edge and crashed onto his stumps, leading to massive celebrations in the Sri Lankan camp.

Rahane and Murali Vijay saw off some brilliant attacking bowling from the the hosts. Spinners Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal produced some strong appeals in fading light but Vijay and Rahane held firm.

With light too fading, Mathews even brought on Dushmantha Chameera for one over, hoping to land a late blow on the Indians. Vijay and Rahane, however, were in no mood to concede control as they slugged it out and remained unseparated to set up an exciting fourth day play at the P Sara Oval.

Score board

INDIA (I Innings): 393 all out.
SRI LANKA (I Innings, O/n: 140/3):
Karunaratne lbw Yadav    1
(5 balls)
Silva c Ashwin b Mishra    51
(118b, 8x4)
Sangakkara c Rahane b Ashwin    32
(87b, 4x4)
Thirimanne c Saha b Ishant    62
(168b, 5x4)
Mathews c Vijay b Binny    102
(167b, 12x4)
Chandimal c Rahul b Ishant    11
(23b, 1x4)
Mubarak b Mishra    22
(46b, 2x4)
Prasad c Rahane b Mishra    5
Herath lbw Ashwin    1
Kaushal st Saha b Mishra    6
(14b, 1x4)
Chameera (not out)    0

Extras (B-2, LB-2, NB-5)    13
Total (all out, 108 overs)    306
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Karunarate), 2-75 (Sangakkara), 3-114 (Silva), 4-241 (Thirimanne), 5-259 (Chandimal), 6-284 (Mathews), 7-289 (Prasad), 8-300 (Mubarak), 9-306 (Herath).
Bowling: Ishant 21-3-68-2 (NB-4), Yadav 19-5-67-1, Binny 18-4-44-1 (NB-1), Ashwin 29-3-76-2, Mishra 21-3-43-4.
INDIA (II Innings):
Vijay (batting)    39
(89b, 2x4)
Rahul b Prasad    2
Rahane (batting)    28
(84b, 1x4)
Extras (W-1)    1
Total (for 1 wkt, 29.2 overs)    70
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Rahul).
Bowling: Prasad 4-0-12-1, Herath 11.2-3-23-0, Chameera 4-0-14-0, Mathews 2-1-1-0, Kaushal 8-0-20-0.

(Published 22 August 2015, 19:17 IST)

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