Spinners Pushpakumara, Sandakan bring Sri Lanka back into contention | Sunday Observer

Spinners Pushpakumara, Sandakan bring Sri Lanka back into contention

Indian captain Virat Kohli is caught by Sri Lanka slip fielder Dimuth Karunaratne off Lakshan Sandakan (not in picture) for 42 on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test at the Pallakele International Stadium yesterday.  (Pix by RUKMAL GAMAGE)
Indian captain Virat Kohli is caught by Sri Lanka slip fielder Dimuth Karunaratne off Lakshan Sandakan (not in picture) for 42 on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test at the Pallakele International Stadium yesterday. (Pix by RUKMAL GAMAGE)

PALLEKELE: Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara held back until the 40th over of the innings for reasons best known to his captain brought Sri Lanka back into contention with three wickets for 22 runs off 43 balls on the opening day of the third and final cricket Test against India at the Pallekele International Stadium yesterday.

India after winning their third consecutive toss of the series were riding high on openers Shikhar Dhawan’s sixth Test century and the opening partnership of 188 with Lokesh Rahul (85) that was assuming threatening proportions when Pushpakumara with his third ball of the innings achieved the initial breakthrough for Sri Lanka.

From there onwards Sri Lanka clawed their way back into the match grabbing six Indian wickets in the afternoon and final sessions after seeing the openers race to 134 without loss in the first.

India eventually finished the day on 329-6 and the way the match stands at the moment Sri Lanka can be assured they would not have to face another first innings total in excess of 600 runs as they had in the first two Tests unless of course the Indian tail wags very strongly.

At the wickets are Wriddhiman Saha on 13 and Hartik Pandya on one – two players who can bat and take India to a decent score.

The way Sri Lanka came back after the morning session was commendable they regrouped and showed a lot of fight to stay in the game and were rewarded with the wickets.

Sri Lanka changed their strategies in the afternoon and final sessions and after Dhawan’s departure managed to strangle the free scoring Indian batsmen with well set field placing to deny them the runs they have been leaking in the first two Tests.

The final session produced the least runs for India in the series – 94 with Sri Lanka controlling the scoring rate and picking up wickets.

Dhawan and Rahul gave India a solid platform to build a huge total with their opening partnership that came off 236 balls.

Rahul capitalised on a dropped chance at mid-on by Lahiru Kumara when he was on 28 to make his seventh consecutive score of fifty and over and join an illustrious band of cricketers who had done so before him - Everton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara and Chris Rogers who had done so before him.

The partnership was broken by Pushpakumara who immediately made his presence felt by having Rahul caught by Dimuth Karunaratne at mid-on for 85 scored off 135 balls (8 fours).

Pushpakumara was also instrumental in the dismissal Dhawan as well when he was caught brilliantly by Dinesh Chandimal at square leg off a full blooded sweep.

The dangerous looking Dhawan looked liked taking the game away from Sri Lanka when he pummelled the bowling for 17 fours in his 123-ball knock for 119. He brought up his sixth Test hundred in style crashing Pushpakumara through mid-off for his 15th four and it came off only 107 balls and it was chanceless.

Sri Lanka also had another wicket in the afternoon session when Lakshan Sandakan had Cheteswar Pujara edging a catch to Angelo Mathews at slip with his score on eight. Pujara had scored centuries in the first two Tests.

It was a good session for Sri Lanka because they captured three wickets within the space of 11 overs.

Sri Lanka followed their good work in the final session with the wickets of Ajinkya Rahane (17), Virat Kohli (42) and Ravichandran Ashwin (31) with Pushpakumara capturing his third of the innings by bowling Rahane through the gate and Sandakan having the Indian skipper caught by Karunaratne at slip.

Fernando who’s solitary appearance was against Australia last year picked up his second Test wicket after a year when Aswhin (31) was out to an excellent diving catch in front of first slip by wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella.

Sri Lanka made three changes to their side with Sandakan, Kumara and Vishwa Fernando replacing the injured Rangana Herath and Nuwan Pradeep and Dhananjaya de Silva. India included Umesh Yadav for the suspended Ravindra Jadeja. 

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