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India 132 ahead after eventful day of Test cricket

Sri Lanka bowled out for 201 after Ishant's five-for, but host fights back with three quick wickets to leave the SSC game, and the series, poised fascinatingly

India 132 ahead after eventful day of Test cricket - Cricket News
India bowled out Sri Lanka for 201, thanks to Ishant Sharma's five-for before ending the day on 21 for 3 with a lead of 132.
If you were looking for an eventful day’s Test cricket, you needn’t have looked beyond the SSC ground on a dramatic, action-packed Sunday (August 30).
 
India and Sri Lanka played equal part in making the third day of the deciding final Test a cracker, not so much through exceptional cricket as with a slew of mistakes. 
 
The fall of 15 wickets in the 65.1 overs of play that was possible before the rain arrived in sudden and great fury to rule out any further twists in the tale might seem suggestive of a pitch from where demons reared their heads just more than occasionally. That wasn’t necessarily the case. There still was some help for the quicker bowlers, especially with the newish ball, but nowhere near as pronounced as it had been on days one and two. Which is exactly what makes it hard to explain why day three panned out the way it did.
 
It started with India on 292 for 8 in its first innings; by the time it ended, it was 21 for 3 in its second innings. In the interim, Sri Lanka recovered remarkably well from 47 for 6 to post 201 and yet concede a deficit of 111 after India had kicked on to post 312. What all of this meant is that going into day four, India finds itself 132 runs to the good with seven wickets standing and its last established pair, in the shape of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, holding court. A day-four finish looms large.
 
Despite not being at its best, India blew away the Sri Lankan cream through Ishant Sharma and Stuart Binny, before Kusal Perera, on debut, counter-attacked ferociously on his way to a half-century at better than a run a ball.
 
India's top three, however, showed vulnerability against the moving new cherry.
 
Cheteshwar Pujara, who had moved into elite company in the first innings by becoming just the fourth Indian to carry his bat through after Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, was quickly reminded of the glorious levelling nature of cricket as a peach from Dhammika Prasad bowled him for a second-ball blob. KL Rahul was dismissed in identical manner to the first innings, not offering a shot to Nuwan Pradeep even though the ball was a lot closer to the off stump than it had been on day one, and opening up an easy path for the ball to maintain its tryst with the stumps.
 
Ajinkya Rahane was then trapped in front by Pradeep as he played down the wrong line, and India was in serious strife at 7 for 3. Prasad, him with the wicket-in-the-first-over calling card and with his left hand bandaged after being pinged on his fingers by Ishant while batting, looked like getting a wicket every delivery, but Kohli with luck and Rohit with intent during a brief stay came away unscathed, carrying India’s hopes of setting a target of sorts for Sri Lanka’s young guns to chase down.
 
The young and not-so-young guns had been completely off colour for the first 97 minutes of the first innings. Ishant, who picked up his first five-for since Lord’s last August, was desperately unlucky to see Upul Tharanga put down in the first over by Rahul at second slip diving in front of Rohit at first, but while neither he nor Umesh Yadav consistently hit the lengths that should have troubled the batsmen, Sri Lanka was in a giving mood.
 
Ishant again found Tharanga’s outside edge and Rahul held on to a more difficult catch this time, also at second slip, and India was in business in the fifth over.
 
In the next, Kaushal Silva was bowled off the inside edge trying to withdraw his bat from a Yadav lifter, and Sri Lanka was in familiar bother when Dinesh Chandimal arrived in a blaze of sparkling strokes. In no time, he played the cover drive, the punch through point and the upper cut as he sped into the 20s when Binny won a shout for leg before. 
 
Angelo Mathews fell to a beauty from Ishant that ducked in and straightened, Dimuth Karunaratne chased a wide one from Binny last ball before lunch and Lahiru Thirimanne was dismissed second ball after, another Ishant peach making its way to Rahul at second slip off the outside edge. It was utter mayhem; 47 for 6, with Prasad forced to retire hurt after one ball as Ishant homed in on the fingers of his left hand with a nasty short delivery.
 
Had Rahul not put down Perera at second slip off Yadav – another sitter on a day when he held three and put down three – when the batsman was only 9 out of 63 for 6, this game could have well and truly been settled by now. Perera showed no nerves as he tore into the bowling, which didn’t know how to respond to a counter-attack.


 
With Rangana Herath for steadfast company, Perera played with the unorthodoxy that he has showcased in the limited-overs game. Sanath Jayasuriya, to whom Perera bears uncanny resemblance, was in a small but admiring audience that soaked in the entertainment even as India’s bowlers went off the boil and Kohli looked unsure of how to stop the bleeding.
 
Taking a cue from Perera, the lower order too adopted an aggressive mien. Having lived by the sword and reached his fifty off 49 deliveries, Perera perished by it too, putting up Ishant for Kohli to hold the skier at mid-off after a stand of 79 with Herath. 
 
Tharindu Kaushal was out leg before to Amit Mishra – who wasn’t, strangely, brought on until the 37th over even though Yadav was copping punishment and R Ashwin was having a rare off-day – even as Sri Lanka added 74 more for the last three wickets. Herath motored to 49 and Prasad, lion-hearted and in visible pain, enjoyed himself in a 23-ball 27 as the Test, and the series, was left poised on a razor’s edge.

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