The Sri Lankans were made to spend 176.1 overs in the field in the second Test as India piled on 610/6 declared. Not much had changed going into the third Test as they were made to toil 127.5 overs in the field as India amassed 536/7 declared. India have taken the sting out of Sri Lanka in the first innings and went for the kill having paralysed them. On a dramatic day at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Virat Kohli smashed yet another double century, his sixth in Tests and a hapless Sri Lankan bowling was just a spectator. Amidst the smog, masks, play hold-ups and injury chaos, Sri Lanka managed to put up some semblance of fight.
After being battered in the field, the Islanders got off to the worst start possible when they lost Dimuth Karunaratne off the first ball of the innings. Five overs later, Dhananjaya de Silva followed Karunaratne back to the hut. It looked scary for Sri Lanka as Angelo Mathews struggled early on but he along with Dilruwan Perera somehow steadied the ship, sharing a 61-run partnership. Just when it looked that the visitors were in path for recovery, Perera perished. The fear started to creep in again. However, captain Dinesh Chandimal and Mathews saw off a testing period to add 56 runs from 155 balls as Sri Lanka ended the day on 131/3.
The Mathews-Chandimal partnership would have instilled some confidence in this energy-sapped Sri Lankan side. However, there is a long way to go as they need to, at first, avoid the follow-on. They are still trailing by 405 runs in the match. This is the time the two senior men need to step up big time. The last time Mathews hit a century was way back in August 2015 where he hit back-to-back tons back home against India. It's been 37 innings since he has notched the three-figure mark. He would look to end the century drought in style and should try to emulate Kohli.
Sri Lanka don't just need a hundred from him, they need a 'Daddy' one from him. The pitch still looks good for batting, it had started to take some turn at the fag end of the day, however, the senior duo would look to see off the tricky early hour and try and build a huge partnership. There are three more recognised batsmen to come – Sadeera Samarawickrama, debutant Roshen Silva and Niroshan Dickwella. However given their inexperience, it's a tricky prospect for Sri Lanka.
They need to grind it out in the middle, just like the Indians did. This is the time to show some grit and fight. Mixing caution and aggression well will be the key as the first two sessions would present them with run-scoring opportunities. They need to make sure that they don't become over-defensive as the mindset would be to get as near as possible to the Indian total. Chandimal would look to take inspiration from the Galle knock two years ago, a freakish one that helped his team beat India against the odds. Mathews, on the other hand, would look to silence the critics in style.
Application will be the key, Chandimal stressed it's importance after the loss in second Test.
"That's a problem we have had over the last one and half years. The top-five batsmen have to play long innings. That's where we have lost in the past one year," Chandimal had said.
"We talk a lot about things at meetings but the problem is that we are not executing them in the middle. We have not applied ourselves according to situations," he added.
Sri Lanka are standing on the edge of the precipice, staring deep down into abyss and this is where they would look up to Mathews and Chandimal to pull them towards safety and achieve some pride. It's not going to be easy but stranger things have happened in cricket.