It was unfortunate that Dhawan was dismissed by Shanaka in the closing stages of the day’s play — caught by Niroshan Dickwella — as Cheteshwar Pujara (2) and Rahul saw India to stumps on 171/1, a lead of 49 runs.
Taking strike with Sri Lanka leading by 122 in the first innings, it was imperative for the openers to lay a foundation and take the team as close to the visitors’ lead as possible, but the duo of Dhawan and Rahul did one better. They not only took the Indians past the 122-run mark, but also added another 44 as the two put on 166 for the opening wicket, taking the game very much away for Sri Lanka’s grip.
While Dhawan was the one who sent the Lankan bowling on a leather hunt in the third session, it was Rahul who started with a bang. Coming in to bat on the verge of a king pair, the pressure was on him, especially with pundits questioning the team management’s decision to play him over Vijay on a greenish track. But Rahul hit three beautiful boundaries of Lahiru Gamage’s first over — second of the innings — to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Wrecker-in-chief Suranga Lakmal’s knee injury only triggered the process further as both Dhawan and Rahul were in a punishing mood. Interestingly, they added caution with aggression beautifully as they paid due respect to the good balls. But sadly for the Lankans, there were far and few of them as the Indians cut, drove and flicked with elan. By the time Lakmal got the ball in his hand, last over before the tea break, the duo of Dhawan and Rahul were already spotting the cricket ball like a football.
Earlier, it was Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who stole the show in the morning session as they sent back Niroshan Dickwella (35), Dasun Shanaka (0) and skipper Dinesh Chandimal (28) in quick session. Even though Dickwella and Chandimal looked on top to begin with, Shami started troubling the Lankan batsmen with his immaculate line and length.
The discipline finally paid dividend as Dickwella was caught beautifully by Kohli in the slips. In the very next over, Bhuvneshwar got one to come in after pitching and the batsman misread the line completely to be caught plumb in front. The DRS didn’t save him as the verdict backed the umpire’s call. Shami came back in the very next over to send Chandimal to the dressing room as Wriddhiman Saha doesn’t drop too many behind the stumps.
It looked like India had sniffed blood and were going for the kill when Shami’s ball hit Dilruwan Perera on the pads and the umpire raised his finger. But strangely enough, Dilruwan decided to stop on his tracks and return back and ask for a DRS even though he was headed to the pavilion. While the Indians didn’t question the sudden move, replays showed that there could well have been some assistance from the dressing room.
The DRS did help Dilruwan survive and with Rangana Herath for company, the two put on a gritty show. They put on 43 runs for the 8th wicket as it not only helped the Lankans build on the lead, but also frustrate the Indian bowlers and captain. Having tried Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav without luck, Kohli fell back on Shami and Bhuvneshwar and the former answered his captain’s call.
Getting one to hold its line after pitching, Shami got the nick off Dilruwan’s bat for Saha to finish another clinical catch behind the wicket. But the end wasn’t near yet as Lakmal decided to put his head down and support Herath in his endeavour.
The two kept frustrating the indian bowlers and Herath also brought up his 3rd Test fifty in what was undoubtedly one of the best knocks in the match till then — after Cheteshwar Pujara’s innings in the Indian first innings. It was Herath who finally fell to the new ball trap as an uppish slash landed straight into Shami’s hand at third-man. Herath went for a 105-ball 67. Lakmal (16) went in the very next over off Shami as the pacer sent the stumps for a walk in the park. But more importantly, the lower-order had ensured that the Lankans were right back in the match with a 122 run lead.
Bhuvneshwar KumarDilruwan Pereraind vs sl 2017India vs Sri Lanka 2017kl rahulmohammed shamiPererarangana herathShamishikhar dhawanvirat kohli
First Published: November 19, 2017, 4:41 PM IST