With two late strikes at the fag end of the day, India ended Day 4 of Delhi Test in commanding position. Just seven Sri Lankan wickets separate Virat Kohli's men from another series win, and in all likelihood, the hosts should cross the finish line without much fuss.
There is, however, the looming threat of in-form Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal and back-in-form former skipper Angelo Mathews. The experienced duo have notched up centuries in the first innings, and would be looking for an encore in the second dig. India will need to find a way to send them back early, and more importantly, hold on to their catches.
Mathews was dropped at least thrice during his innings, and India's constantly-in-flux slip cordon inspires little confidence. On the last day of the Test match, particularly at the Feroz Shah Kotla, the ball does keep low and slow. Even on the fourth day, some edges dropped short behind the wicket, indicting the slowness of the track. The placement and positioning of the slip cordon, hence, becomes all the more important.
India would be especially wary of Chandimal. The rival captain has been the only Sri Lankan batsman who has shown consistency, and on Tuesday, he notched up his highest Test score. His previous highest, also against India, had turned the Galle Test on its head, and while that possibility looks remote, India would do well to send him back early.
The Indian pacers have been exceptionally good in this series, and it would be ideal if they use the early morning moisture and movement on offer before spinners take charge. Sri Lanka would be playing for a draw, and it becomes imperative to make them play as much as possible.
Pitching deliveries on the fifth-stump line may not be a good idea in such a scenario, and pacers must bowl as close to the off stump as possible. The Indian bowlers would do well to remember the bloody-minded resistance South Africa put up at the same venue two years back, and it took a special effort from the bowling unit to get past the dead-batting Proteas.
Jadeja and Ashwin can be relied upon to keep operating with unerring accuracy, and in all probability, India should end their home season with another win. Stranger things, however, have happened on the cricket field, and India will be mindful of that.
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