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India chases tricky 176 after Chandimal’s 162

Sri Lanka stages sensational recovery from 95 for 5 to post 367 in second innings to set up a thriller

India chases tricky 176 after Chandimal’s 162 - Cricket News
Sri Lanka recovered to post 367 on the back of Dinesh Chandimal’s electric unbeaten 162 and set India a target of 176.
India controlled most parts of the first session, but a special counter-attacking innings from Dinesh Chandimal helped Sri Lanka stage a remarkable fight back on Day 3 of the first Test in Galle on Friday (August 14).

A three-day finish had looked very much on the cards once India ended a positive fourth-wicket stand of 87 by dismissing Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews in the space of seven deliveries. At 95 for 5, Sri Lanka was still 97 shy of making India bat a second time, and Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne looked like every ball had their name written on it.

Along the way, both batsmen rode plenty of luck, which they translated into aggression to take India by surprise. The visitor seemed unprepared for that onslaught, probably thinking the slightly risk-fraught approach wouldn’t last too long. But, even as the sixth-wicket association rapidly took root, it could summon no Plan B that would have allowed it to at least control the flow of runs and thereby frustrate Sri Lankan designs.

Consequently, what could have been a straightforward victory in the first Test has now become a tricky chase. Chandimal’s wondrous fourth Test hundred – his first that wasn’t against Bangladesh – has given Sri Lanka a whiff. Having recovered from 5 for 3 and 95 for 5 to post 367 on the back of Chandimal’s electric unbeaten 162, Sri Lanka set India a target of 176 for victory with time not even a factor in a game remarkably untouched by the rain so far.

As the fireworks went off just outside the ground to welcome Ranil Wickremasinghe, the Sri Lankan prime minister, to a pre-election rally, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan began India’s chase with the circumspection the short passage of play to stumps necessitated, but it took only 27 deliveries for Sri Lanka to draw first blood. 

Rahul fell cheaply for the second time in the game, trapped in front going right back to Rangana Herath. But Dhawan and Ishant Sharma, the nightwatchman, saw it through to 23 for 1 at close. India needs a further 153, Sri Lanka nine wickets. From one-way traffic, this match has unspooled into a potential thriller almost entirely on the back of the Chandimal show.

Even accounting for the fact that the pitch had slowed up considerably and, therefore, whatever spin there was beyond the first hour and a bit was slow, India struggled for the kind of control you would expect of a fairly experienced Test attack, Varun Aaron excepted.

Aaron had given India a dream start with the day’s first delivery when he fired out Dhammika Prasad with a snorter well caught by a flying Ajinkya Rahane to his left at gully. It was the first of five catches on the day and in the innings for Rahane, taking his match tally to a world record eight.

R Ashwin and Amit Mishra started well enough despite coming under early fire from Sangakkara and Mathews, who both decided that attack was the best form of defence. In fact, that was clearly Sri Lanka’s game plan throughout the innings, with Chandimal, Thirimanne and Jehan Mubarak all making excellent use of the feet and unafraid to take the aerial route in an eventually successful attempt to throw the Indians off their rhythm.

Virat Kohli looked bereft of ideas as Sri Lanka flourished under the hot afternoon sun and all his bowlers went for plenty of quick runs. As India waited for things to happen, Chandimal took it upon himself to make them happen. Chandimal had been caught off bat and grill of helmet by Cheteshwar Pujara, subbing for Dhawan, at short fine-leg sweeping Ashwin when on 5, only for Oxenford to rule in favour of the batsman.

A few minutes later, on 10, he drove Mishra into Rohit Sharma’s boot and the bowler caught the rebound, but third umpire Martinesz gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman. In between, Thirimanne was lucky to survive an appeal for a catch by Rahul at silly point, with replays suggesting he had got an inside edge.

It was perhaps the perfect day for Chandimal to buy a lottery ticket. Instead, he decided to put his good fortune to better use by furthering his case for a promotion in the batting order with an innings of such brilliance that it took everyone’s breath away. The sweep is his go-to shot against the spinner and he employed it with impunity, but this was no one-dimensional innings. There were reverse sweeps and switch hits that drove Ashwin to distraction, meaty crunches when pacers and spinners alike dropped the ball short, and crunchy pulls as he alone made 88 runs between lunch and tea.

Sri Lanka piled up 155 in that period as first Thirimanne, who was the more subdued partner in the sixth-wicket stand of 125, and later Mubarak, who topped 40 for the first time in 12-and-a-half years, also donned their dancing shoes and brought out their scoring bats. Only Mishra offered some control, Harbhajan Singh didn’t look menacing and Aaron was barely called on as Kohli used his bowlers in short bursts – Ashwin’s five-over spell immediately after lunch was the longest by any bowler.

Ashwin, who finished with 4 for 114 and returned match figures of 10 for 160 – the third time he has taken 10 wickets in a match – had got rid of Sangakkara for the second time in three days in the session before lunch to a brilliant catch to his left by Rahane, while Mathews’s promising foray was cut short by Mishra, whose extra bounce put Rahul in business at silly point. India’s catching was pretty impressive with Rahane the central figure as he leapt left and right and into the record books, though as a bowling unit, they had no answers to the magnificence of Chandimal in the passage of play beyond lunch.

After Thirimanne and Mubarak, the tail hung around long enough for Chandimal to continue to tee off and boost the lead to dangerous proportions. India eventually needed the second new ball to round off the entertainment as Ashwin packed off Nuwan Pradeep, but Chandimal couldn’t be conquered. He just couldn’t be.

To view the full scorecard, please click here.

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