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Batsmen build on Mishra's four as India edges ahead

Angelo Mathews hits century but visiting side ends third day with overall lead of 157

Batsmen build on Mishra's four as India edges ahead - Cricket News
Ashwin and Mishra spun their magic against the lower order.
The middle day of a Test match has historically been considered the moving day. In a majority of the matches, it is when the pendulum generally swings decisively one way. In many ways, it is like the seventh game in tennis. A service break in the seventh is gold dust; it means the one who has broken takes momentum into the changeover while the one who has been broken has a minute and a bit to ponder over what he needs to do to get back into the contest.
The third day of the second Test seemed determined to break from norm as Lahiru Thirimanne, carefully, and Angelo Mathews, with industriousness and enterprise aplenty, thwarted India’s designs for two and a quarter hours. Sri Lanka gradually ate into India’s first-innings tally of 393 at the P Sara Oval on the back of a fourth-wicket stand of 127 between the captain and his deputy.
At 241 for 3 post lunch, Sri Lanka was primed to at least equal, if not surpass, India’s more than competitive total when Ishant Sharma, armed with the second new ball, finally broke through. India then fusing the discipline of the previous evening with incisiveness from the quicker bowlers and spinners alike to open up a significant 87-run lead on the back of Amit Mishra’s (4 for 43) veritable bag of tricks allied with unrelenting accuracy.
Despite a brilliantly crafted fifth century by Mathews, Sri Lanka lost its last six wickets for just 65 runs to be bowled out for 306, some 22 minutes after tea on Saturday (August 22). Two rain interruptions in the session after lunch, totalling 39 minutes in all, pushed the scheduled close back. India used that time to extend its overall advantage to 157 by kicking on to 70 for 1 at stumps.

Like he had done in the first innings, Dhammika Prasad again rocked India in the first over, producing a nip-backer that flew off KL Rahul’s inside-edge and knocked out leg pole. The centurion of the first innings had paid the ultimate price for playing away from his body, but with M Vijay putting the disappointment of Thursday’s four-ball blob behind him, and Ajinkya Rahane offering solid support at No. 3, India came through without further damage.
The 121-minute passage to stumps wasn’t without incident, Vijay and Rahane surviving as much through pluck as through luck. Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal put the two batsmen through a searching examination, the appeals flying thick and fast as the ball kept thudding into pad or just missing the outside edge. More of that is likely to be on offer over the next two days, which will test the fortitude of batsmen from both sides.
For much of the pre-lunch session on Saturday, India appeared to be a little behind the eight-ball as Thirimanne and Mathews ploughed on. It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way – there was turn and bounce for the spinners, however slowly the ball came off the surface – and there was something for the quicker bowlers too, but the pace of the game was on the slower side.
Thirimanne was watchful, and scored just five off his first 30 deliveries even as Mathews began with greater flair, taking two boundaries in Stuart Binny’s first over – the second of the day – and driving Umesh Yadav past mid-on to re-establish his own positive mindset. The Thirimanne-Mathews alliance was an effective one of opposites; the left-hander was patient and willing to wait for the bad balls, the right-hander wasn’t afraid to go looking for scoring opportunities as he showcased intent even in solid defence.
Kohli tried everything at his disposal, but as tight as his bowlers were, they didn’t create half as many chances as they would have liked. The odd ball from the quicks whizzed past the outside edge, occasionally one of R Ashwin or Mishra would curl the ball past or around the batsman, but otherwise, it was largely a case of the bat holding sway even if the rate of scoring wasn’t frenetic.
Mathews was first to his fifty and Thirimanne followed suit a while later.
Kohli requisitioned the second new ball as soon as it was due, then tried to attack Mathews with the short stuff. Three short balls were pulled with disdain, with three boundaries the result, before Ishant went back to over the stumps. But it was when he returned to round the sticks, this time to Thirimanne, that India finally found success.
Thirimanne threw his bat at a full ball that screamed through to Wriddhiman Saha, and that was just the opening the Indians needed to start to eat away at the Lankan batting.
Ishant greeted Dinesh Chandimal, the last Test hero, with a fabulous bouncer first ball that flew to fine-leg off the helmet. By now, Ishant was fired up, the memories of those three Mathews boundaries distant at best. There were no heroics from Chandimal this time around as he was well caught on the second attempt at second slip by Rahul, Ishant returning India back into the contest with a spell of 2 for 30 from six overs with the brand new cherry.
Mathews got to his century a little before tea with a fabulous reverse off Ashwin, but fell in the next over as Binny, eventually, got his first Test wicket. Having sent down 288 deliveries previously in three Tests in England last year and here in this game, he forced Mathews to play at an away-swinger that flew gently to Vijay at wide slip. Before he started celebrating, Binny confirmed from Bruce Oxenford that it was a legitimate delivery, that there would be no repeat of the heartbreak of the previous day when he overstepped to let Kaushal Silva off the hook. Sweet success, sweet gesture.
The rest was a matter of routine as Ashwin and Mishra spun their magic against the lower order. The leggie produced a peach to account for Jehan Mubarak, the ball drifting away from the left-hand batsman to land just outside off, and breaking back to go past the outside edge and hit off-stump. Magical stuff.
It was a wonderful comeback from the Indians. Yadav wasn’t quite the same force he had been on day two, but Binny again proved to be a handy fifth bowler and the spinners operated well both in tandem and on their own, showing the kind of patience that a surface of this nature demanded. But the job is still only half done, as the Indians will well remember, given that the events of Galle are no more than a week old.

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