Sri Lanka did all they could against India to gain an upper hand in the rain-hit Kolkata Test. But as the Day 4 ended once again due to bad light, it looked like the game had slipped away from the visitors. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul ensured India bounce back and wipe away the 122-run deficit.
Both the openers shared a solid 166-run partnership for the first wicket, with Dhawan getting out after making 94 and Rahul remaining unbeaten on 73. Just a day of play left and interestingly, a draw looks like the most likely result.
But that doesn't mean Sri Lanka should give up on the match and play for a draw.
Of course, the conditions helped the Lankan bowlers in the first innings and they made sure they exploit that opportunity. On Sunday, the conditions were not much favourable for the bowlers and they faltered. On the final day also, bowlers will not get much help, but Sri Lanka should have the intent to dismiss all remaining Indian batsmen.
Specifically, Sri Lanka should aim to take 3-4 wickets quickly in the morning session and make India panic a bit. Not that it would result in a win but it would set the right precedent.
Since the pacers will not be much effective on Day 5, it's the spinners who should now step up. Rangana Herath is a proven champion and on Monday, he should bowl like one. They should try to make life difficult for Indian batsmen regardless of the limited time. The Lankans successfully pushed India on the backfoot in the first innings so they should try to put more pressure on the hosts in the second.
If India dominate the final day, then it will be like a morale-booster for them going into the second Test. Dinesh Chandimal and Co should make sure that doesn't happen, having started the Test confidently. The Indian team should go into the second Test expecting Sri Lanka to be tough competitors and they are here for a fight. The Islanders should build up that reputation and that should be the goal on the final day.
Apart from Herath, skipper Chandimal should also come forward and lead the side with grit and determination. He should try to infuse more energy into the squad rather than allowing his team to play for a draw. If Sri Lanka could make things tougher for India on the final day and put out a firm statement that they are here for a fight then that will do a world of good for their team.
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