Gritty Lankans hit back in style

From 47/5, the hosts post 201 all out before leaving India at 21/3 on day three

Gritty Lankans hit back in style

Being under the gun somehow seems to brings the best out of the Sri Lankans as they staged an incredible fightback yet again to turn the tables on India and leave third and final Test poised interestingly here on Sunday.

In deep trouble at 47/5 at lunch after bowling out India for 312, the hosts, just like in the opening Test at Galle, counter-attacked in stunning fashion through debutante Kusal Perera (55, 56 balls, 9x4) and Rangana Herath (49, 84b, 8x4) to post 201 all out in 52.2 overs at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC).

Dhammika Prasad (1/8), bowling with a strapped left-hand after being struck by an Ishant Sharma short ball while batting, and co-pacer Nuwan Pradeep (2/8) then ran through the Indian top-order in another impressive opening burst to leave the visitors tottering at 21/3 and trail by 132 runs when rain brought an early end to a fascinating day’s play when 15 wickets tumbled.

Starting the day at 292/8, the Indians came up with a logical plan — go for big shots from the word go, get as many runs as quickly as possible and make the best use of the lively SSC track. The tail predictably didn’t hang around much as Sri Lankans came on to bat with less than half-an-hour of play gone by.

Having watched from the dressing room the bounce and deviation Prasad, Pradeep and Angelo Mathews extracted over the previous two days, Ishant and Umesh Yadav were glad to return the favour in kind to the Sri Lankan batsmen.

While the tall Ishant (5/54) extracted plenty of bounce, Yadav (1/64) harried the Lankans with his scorching pace and almost unplayable out-swingers, time and again beating the edges. Both the bowlers were top notch in their opening spells, their remarkable consistency proving too hot for the young and inexperienced Sri Lankan batsmen to handle.

The visitors could have been one wicket down as early as in the fourth ball but KL Rahul grassed a difficult chance. The procession, however, began in the fifth over when Rahul made amends by grasping Upul Thranga’s edge off Ishant.

With Stuart Binny (2/24) too joining the festivities by removing the impressive Dinesh Chandimal for the third Sri Lankan wicket and Mathews departing to Ishant, the hosts were in deep trouble and it only got worse when Dimuth Karunaratne threw away his wicket with a wild shot on the stroke of lunch.

India resumed the second session on a roaring note when Ishant scalped Lahiru Thirimanne off the second ball and sent Prasad back to the dressing room in the very next delivery when the right-hander got hit flush on his gloves while trying to fend off a short ball.

Looking to close in on the visitors, the Indians came unfounded against the Perera. With a batting style an almost copybook of his icon Sanath Jayasuriya, the stocky wicketkeeper batsman plundered the Indian attack with utter disdain. Having nothing to lose and all to gain, he just hammered everything within his sight and with Herath too choosing attack as the modus operandi, the Indians were sent on a leather hunt.

In no time, they stitched together a follow-on saving 79-run stand when Perera fell victim to Ishant. Hearth, however, kept the tail wagging to frustrate the Indians and Prasad too came back at the fall of former’s wicket to hand some lusty blows as the last four wickets raked up a stunning 154 runs.

The Indians, who had bowled brilliantly until then, were equally guilty of allowing Perera, Herath and Prasad a free hand. While they were either too full or too short to Perera and Herath, they just kept following Prasad, failing to land a single yorker which could have got the job done.

The ever-smiling Prasad then set-up the match beautifully with a cracking delivery to oust first innings centurion Cheteshwar Pujara off the second ball. Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane then joined Pujara back in the dressing room, falling in similar fashion as in the first innings.

Rahul was bowled while trying to leave an incoming ball from Pradeep only to see it crash on to his stumps while Rahane was adjudged leg-before to an in-swinger to the same bowler. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma then saw off the remaining few overs but not without surviving some close calls.

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