The third day of the second Test between India and Sri Lanka could not have been more one-sided. It was a day that highlighted the difference in quality between the two sides.
India, resuming from their daunting overnight score of 312/2, were in for a run fest on Sunday as captain Virat Kohli and middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma entered the Indian centurions' list in this match, guiding India to a commanding first innings score of 610/6. That was before Ishant Sharma struck early to leave Sri Lanka at 21/1 at stumps.
Pujara, who took 16 deliveries to collect his first run of the day, added 22 runs to his overnight score of 121 before castled by a loopy delivery from Dasun Shanaka. Ajinkya Rahane extended his lean patch as he departed after struggling his way after scoring 2, with the Sri Lankans sensing a comeback into the game on either side of lunch on the third day.
Kohli, however, took the attack to the visitors and was ably supported from the other end by Rohit, who was playing his first Test in over a year. In a well-constructed innings that was dotted with boundaries at regular intervals, Kohli not only brought up his 10th century this year as captain — a record in its own right — but went on to collect his fifth double-century, joining the legendary Ricky Ponting for the record of most 200s as skipper.
In a match that has witnessed a couple of comebacks in the Indian camp, Rohit announced himself once again in the five-day format as he brought up his first Test century in over four years, with Kohli waiting for him to reach the milestone before declaring the innings.
The Islanders were expected to maintain vigil right from the start, and preserve their wickets going into the fourth day. Young opener Sadeera Samarawickrama, who suffered a nasty blow to his rib cage while fielding at short-leg on Day 2, departed off just the second ball of the innings without a run against his name as he decided to raise his arms to a sharp in-swinger from Ishant that clipped the top of his off-stump, leaving the visitors in further disarray.
Given the state that they find themselves in, with their lack of plan and discipline against such a strong side being the primary reason behind it, there isn't much that will stop them from succumbing to an innings loss, and conceding the series lead. One would hardly find a fan or a pundit out there that would disagree with the notion.
However, nobody quite expected them to put Kohli and company under the mat at Eden either. Nobody gave them a chance ahead of the two-Test series against Pakistan in the Gulf, for further reference.
Yes, the Sri Lankans have a whole Everest to climb if they are to save this match, let alone win it, and will require captain Dinesh Chandimal or coach Nic Pothas, or both, to fire their team up with a pep talk straight out of a sports movie for the batting order to make it through the next two days. Thirimanne has had his moment in the series so far, scoring a half-century at Kolkata, as did few others in the squad.
A solid partnership between him and Karunaratne is what the visitors need to get the motion going in their favour. One may recount the stonewalling effort by AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and the rest of the South Africans at Delhi two years ago, dragging the match into the final session of Day 5 from a hopeless situation before finally crumbling to a 337-run loss.
It might serve the Sri Lankans some good if they revisit that effort, and may improvise on this occasion.
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