A resilient Sri Lanka managed to eke out a draw against India on day five of the third Test in Delhi. Ending day four on 31/3, needing 379 more runs to win, Dhananjaya de Silva led the rearguard action with his third Test ton (retired hurt) while the others too chipped in with crucial contributions to deny India a 2-0 series win.
India had earlier won the toss, and captain Virat Kohli had opted to bat first. After losing a couple of early wickets, Murali Vijay (155) and Kohli (243) himself ensured they got the hosts on course for a humongous total with a 283-run stand, with Kohli himself surpassing his highest Test score of 235.
Sri Lanka, in reply, made decent use of the batting conditions as Dinesh Chandimal (164) and Angelo Mathews (111) struck centuries to forge a 181-run stand and help their side avoid follow-on. In India's second essay, Shikhar Dhawan, along with Rohit Sharma and Kohli, struck brisk half-centuries as the hosts set a target of 410 after batting for about two sessions on the fourth day.
The visitors were staring down the barrel at stumps on Day 4 after an early breakthrough by Mohammed Shami, as well as a quick burst by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, which left them tottering at 31/3. However, a gritty second innings batting display made sure they escaped with a draw.
Here's a look at some of the important talking points from the third Test:
Delhi's air quality:
Perhaps the one topic that people will be talking about for a long time is the air pollution fiasco. That the BCCI scheduled a match in the national capital in the month of December, when smog levels in the city usually spike, was a big concern. But the sight of Sri Lankan players wearing masks on the field, pacers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage complaining of breathing problems, and a few players vomiting made headlines globally. Things had become so bad that at one point, there were even talks of forfeiting or abandoning the match .
Virat Kohli's milestones
It continues to rain milestones for the Indian captain. Kohli not only forged a solid partnership with Vijay to guide the hosts out of an uneasy spot in their first innings, he also brought up his third ton of the series, as well as his second-consecutive double-hundred — going past Brian Lara for the captain with most Test double hundreds among other records. He was looking for his maiden triple century when a lapse of concentration led to his dismissal.
Ajinkya Rahane's lean patch continues
The Indian vice-captain hasn't been in the best of form in recent times, and has been struggling in this series in particular — scoring 10 of the 17 runs accumulated in the entire series in the second innings of this Test. An average of 3.40 simply cuts a sorry figure for a batsman of his stature, especially when other batsmen have stood up to the occasion and scored tons. Even though his place is by no means under any threat, he will be under a lot more pressure once the side lands in South Africa.
Angelo Mathews roars back to form
Unlike Rahane, Mathews redeemed himself in Sri Lanka's first innings with a fine century and got back among the runs. It had been a rough ride for him in recent months, having given up on bowling due to a calf injury, with his batting performances not making up for his unavailability as a bowler. He shared a solid partnership with Dinesh Chandimal, who registered his highest Test score in this match, to guide the Sri Lankans to a respectable 373.
Slip catching still a chink in India's armour
Mathews' journey to his century, though, wasn't all that smooth as he was dropped thrice along the way, twice in the slips. Both Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli let go of a chance each after the Indian pacers snared a couple of early wickets to restrict Sri Lanka to 14/2 in their first innings. The reprieves allowed the visitors to build on, and avoid the possibility of getting shot out for another low total.
Sri Lanka's resilience
Sri Lanka were reeling at 31/3 at the end of Day 4 and for many an Indian, a win was a forgone conclusion. To add to their misery the Lankans lost Mathews early on Day 5. Replays later showed that Ravindra Jadeja had clearly overstepped. Sri Lanka were unlucky but that didn't deter their determination.
Chandimal and Dhananjaya de Silva then got together and steadied the ship with a 112-run stand from 199 balls. De Silva mixed caution with aggression really well as he brought up his third Test ton.
One of Sri Lanka's biggest weaknesses has been lack of partnerships and application at the crease. It is something which their coach and captain had stressed upon time and again. Application at the crease was the need of the hour to save the Test. De Silva carried on the rearguard along with Roshen Silva who shone on his debut as the pair added 58 runs, before De Silva had to unfortunately retire because of back problems. It could still have been tricky but Niroshan Dickwella and Silva got together and defied India further, adding 94 unbeaten runs to clinch a draw. This performance would do a lot of good for this young team going forward.