Lanka hang on to force draw

Bad light halts Indian charge after Kohli's superb century

Lanka hang on to force draw

The constant ebb and flow of the game, the attritional battle between bat and ball, rising tempers in the middle after four days of absolute bonhomie and fortunes swinging wildly from one end to the other like the proverbial yo-yo -- this was Test cricket at its best.

Sri Lanka may have stayed on top for the better part of the truncated first Test but the visitors were pushed to the brink on the final day before hanging on to a nervy draw here at the Eden Gardens on Monday.

Set a target of 231 from a possible 47 overs after India, overnight 166/1, declared their second innings closed at 352 for eight in 88.4 overs, Lanka had a providential escape when bad light stonewalled India's desperate push for victory. The tourists were reeling at 75/7 in 26.3 overs with still 20.3 overs to be bowled for the day but the ever-fading light forced the umpires to call it a day at 4.27 pm which meant Lanka avoided defeat for the first time in the last six Tests against India.

After Virat Kohli set the match up nicely for India with a brilliantly-paced century (104, 208m, 119b, 8x4, 2x6), Indian pace troika of man of the match Bhuvneshwar Kumar (11-8-8-4), Mohammad Shami (2/34) and Umesh Yadav (1/25) rattled the Lankan batsmen with their pace, bounce and movement in a fascinating exhibition of fast bowling that is seldom seen in this part of the world. While there had been many gripping passages of play through the course of this match, the best was reserved for the last session of the Test.

On a day when quite a few Indian players accomplished significant personal milestones, Kohli stole the show with an innings that almost won India the match. As has been the theme of this match, India, who were comfortably placed at overnight 166/1, lost wickets in a cluster to plunge into a sort of crisis. K L Rahul was the first to go against the run of play, undone by another ripper from Suranga Lakmal. Even as Rahul shaped to flick what appeared to be a half-volley, it pitched slightly short of his expectation and cut back sharply into the right-hander to uproot the middle stump. This was the ninth occasion the Karnataka batsman has fallen for a fifty-plus score in the last 11 innings.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who became only the ninth overall batsman and third Indian after M L Jaisimha and Ravi Shastri to bat on all five days of a Test match, received a cruel delivery from Lakmal that reared up from just short of length and flew to gully after hitting the handle of the bat. Dilruwan Perera completed a fine catch, diving in front of him. Ajinkya Rahane fell cheaply again, this time without scoring to Lakmal who was on top of his game like on the opening day. The right-arm quick once again got the ball to jag back from the off and struck Rahane on the pad to win an lbw appeal on review. From 192 for one, India had slipped to 213 for four that effectively reduced them to 91 for four.

Kohli, who brought up his 50th  international hundred and 18th  in Tests, had been going through a rough patch this year with just one fifty-plus score (103 n.o. against Lanka in Galle) in his last 11 innings. With his team on a shaky wicket, the Indian skipper chose the right occasion to display his class. What began as an approach towards saving the match, soon turned into a potentially match-winning knock. While he took 80 balls to bring up his first fifty, he raced to the second in just 39 balls to completely change the course of the game. He declared India's innings immediately after reaching his hundred with an audacious six off Lakmal, giving his bowlers a fair chance to have a go at the Lankan batsmen. The bowlers did their best but it was perhaps the fitting end to a contest where both sides fancied a win at different stages and stared defeat as well at times.    

 

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