Needing 410 to win, Sri Lanka reduced to 31/3 on fourth day
Unlike yesterday, the game moved at a rather rapid pace today, the fourth day of the third Test. In the morning, Sri Lanka’s first innings folded up for 373; India then declared their second innings at 246/5, setting the visitors a target of 410. India then picked up three wickets towards the end of play to reduce Lanka to 31/3 and give themselves a great chance to wrap up the match and series on the final day tomorrow. And, yes, air pollution came into play today as well, perhaps in a more telling way than on the last two days with two fast bowlers — Sri Lanka’s Suranga Lakmal and India’s Mohammed Shami — vomiting on the field. Nevertheless, play wasn’t stopped.
In the morning, the Indian innings followed more or less a familiar pattern — Virat Kohli scored runs, 50 off 58 balls, and Ajinkya Rahane failed once again. The half-century gave Kohli two more records — his total of 293 runs is the most by an Indian skipper in a match, and his series total of 610 is the highest by an Indian batsman in a three-match series.
Even as the Indian skipper continued to feast on the Lankan attack, Rahane’s run of woes continued. He was sent in one down, ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara, to get some runs and his form going but he couldn’t make use of the opportunity. In his 37-ball stay at the wicket, he looked quite unsure, especially against the spinners. After surviving two close DRS reviews, Rahane decided to hit his way out of trouble, only to find Dilruwan Perera taking the catch at long-on off Lakshan Sandakan. As has been the case in recent past, his failure didn’t hurt India for everyone else has been among the runs. However, with the South Africa tour coming up, India must be a little worried about his form, their most dependable batsman overseas. But another in-form batsman, Pujara, too helped himself to a quick 49 while Rohit Sharma got a 50 before India declared at 246/5.
For Sri Lanka, the first step in the improbable chase would have been to survive the nervy 90-odd minutes of play today with minimum damage. They, however, lost three wickets by the time the umpires called it a day. Shami and Ishant Sharma, just like in the first innings, came out firing on all cylinders and tested the Lankan openers with pace and bounce. Shami got one to rise sharply at opener Sadeera Samarawickrama, and the ball brushed his glove, thudded into his arm before looping up towards gully, where Rahane took a simple catch. Immediately after taking the wicket, Shami was seen throwing up and walking off the field.
After that, Ravindra Jadeja also got into the act and picked two quick wickets, pushing Lanka into deeper trouble.
Sri Lanka lost two wickets in what turned out to be the day’s last over, before which the umpires had checked if the light was good enough to continue playing. Their coach Nic Pothas, though, didn’t look pleased with how the light issue was handled by the officials. “I am sure the light meter is spot on, but it looked too much of a coincidence to lose a wicket to see suddenly it’s too dark for the seamers,” said Pothas. “And we lose two wickets to spin, then it’s too dark and we are off. Can it deteriorate that quick? I don’t know.”
Sri Lanka need 379 more runs to win the game; India need seven wickets. For Lanka to put up some resistance tomorrow, skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews would need to repeat their first-innings heroics. At the moment, though, India look all set to wrap up the match and series tomorrow.
610 Runs by Virat Kohli in this Test series, the most by an Indian in a three-match Test series and the fourth-highest overall. Graham Gooch — the highest scorer — made 752 runs against India in 1990
2818 Runs by Kohli across all international formats in 2017 — the third-highest ever recorded in a calendar year. Kumar Sangakkara with 2868 in 2014 and Ricky Ponting’s 2833 in 2005 are the top two
3 Times Kohli has aggregated 600-plus runs a Test series — a new record for India as he went past Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid, who have done it twice each. Kohli scored 692 runs in Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2014-15 (4 Tests) and 655 against England last season (5 Tests) before doing it again in this series. Don Bradman scored 600-plus runs in six series
Shami throws up more questions about Lanka’s pollution woes