Mounting an ideally situation demanding clarion call in a chip of the old block of former captain Angelo Mathews and incumbent captain Dinesh Chandimal’s glorious centuries Sri Lanka did achieve what had looked like the impossible in staying in the game, but the third day close of play deterioration of 356 for 8 wickets from a healthy 317 for 4 could well have been averted but for young Sadeera Samarawickrema gifting his wicket when well set on a docile Delhi wicket. In that sense it did prove very costly for Sri Lanka by that cardinal mistake when looking well set on 33 off 61 when the name of the game was plainly clear to negotiate the next 13.2 overs with his captain on the other side batting imperiously, but calm and calculatedly. That it must serve as a future lesson to the 22-year old new talent for caving in chasing a ball far out of off stump in succumbing to Ravichandran Aswin’s bait and popping a catch is pertinent; pertinent given the fact that his captain was left literally stranded won 147 with much more left to reel off and to fight for.
Consequently Sri Lanka’s innings was on the tether of being polished off by the Indian bowling machinery on a day indeed Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal braved all the odds with brilliant three figure mark bravery. Mathews’ 111 off 268 deliveries inclusive of 14 boundaries and two sixes magnificent given the harsh odds he batted in, and Chandimal’s remarkably imperious in terms of quality and stature; stature that raised his stocks in leaps and bounds having defied everything India threw at him in the aplomb of a wizard who sent out an exemplary message of an artist in total command of his willow work. The Mathews-Chandimal 181-run fourth wicket alliance was value in gold for Sri Lanka in averting the follow on and reducing the deficit. Mathews’ exit to a lollypop catch to Saha was more in an apparent tense stroke of staying where he was and fending at an Aswin delivery on the off instead of using his feet in getting behind the ball. A highlight of the Mathews-Chandimal pairing was their batting through in the entire session to lunch adding 61 with Sri Lanka on 192 for 3.
The 28-year old Sri Lankan skipper’s 147-run knock was articulated off 341 ball s and containing 18 hits to the ropes and one six. Therein, the caving in of 5 wickets for 37 runs in 13 overs sparked by Samarawickrema’s wicket was tragic knowing that Chandimal was in his element. In that rut fell debutant Roshane Silva and Niroshan Dickwella for ducks and Suranga Lakmal for 5 and Lahiru Gamage for 1. The main damage was done by Aswin who finished with figures of 3 for 90 and R.A. Jadeja 2 for 85.
Indeed, the Lankan skipper faces a further herculean task of having to palm the strike and shield last man Lakshan Sandakan in the task of reducing the gap of 180 runs Sri Lanka trails India.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-