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India strikes thrice as Sri Lanka stutters in chase of 386

Host ends Day 4 on 67/3 after handy contributions from lower-order batters give India big lead

India strikes thrice as Sri Lanka stutters in chase of 386 - Cricket News
Channeling his aggression, Ishant Sharma fired out Upul Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal in a fiery burst of 5-1-7-2.
After the madness of the previous day when 15 wickets tumbled for no discernible reason, a semblance of normalcy returned to the SSC ground on Monday (August 31). 
India took a giant stride towards registering its first away series win in four years, and its first series triumph on Sri Lankan soil since 1993. With a display of great character from the middle and lower orders that were determined to build on a crucial half-century from Rohit Sharma, India exorcised the ghosts of the previous evening to bat Sri Lanka out of the game.
Overnight 21 for 3 when the fourth day’s play in the final Test began, India tided over a testing early period courtesy Virat Kohli and Rohit, then benefited from contributions and partnerships through the innings to reach 274 when it was finally bowled out, 40 minutes after tea. That left Sri Lanka with the onerous task of making 386 for victory; the highest successful run chase at the SSC is 328, but this surface bears little resemblance to the batting beauties of the past, even if much of the life has ebbed away with the passage of time and under a harsh sun that has sucked the juice out of it.
By the time Sri Lanka began its tough ask, the sun had disappeared into the thick, dark clouds and Ishant Sharma was all fired up after being subjected to a bouncer barrage by Dhammika Prasad. Channeling his aggression, he fired out Upul Tharanga and Chandimal in a fiery burst of 5-1-7-2; Umesh Yadav got rid of Dimuth Karunaratne in the interim, all three batsmen perishing to catches behind the stumps as India’s pacers made the new ball count.
With India tending to overdo the short stuff, Kaushal Silva and Angelo Mathews pulled out a few sparkling strokes each to negotiate the remaining passage to stumps, which a wobbly Sri Lanka was grateful for at 67 for 3 when bad light stopped play. Sri Lanka is 319 shy of what would be a famous victory but the more realistic equation is India requiring seven further wickets to complete a come-from-behind 2-1 scoreline.
The fourth day was always going to be a severe examination not just of the skills and temperament of India’s batsmen, but also of its five-bowler formula, which has left them a specialist batsman short. Kohli and Rohit were going to be the key to India setting a target of sorts, but there was pressure on Stuart Binny to justify his presence at No. 6. Binny couldn’t have chosen a more decisive moment to get among the runs, quickly dissipating whatever pressure there might have been in the immediacy of Kohli’s dismissal with a string of boundaries that necessitated Sri Lanka to spread the field.
Taking a cue from Binny, Naman Ojha, Amit Mishra – promoted to No. 8 – and R Ashwin all played with freedom against a flagging Sri Lankan attack with Prasad clearly feeling the effects of the exertions of the past few weeks. With its talisman below his best, Mathews a reluctant bowler, Rangana Herath some way short of his usual niggardly self and Tharindu Kaushal not inspiring enough confidence in his captain, Nuwan Pradeep was left to carry the fight.
Pradeep soldiered on manfully on his way to Test-best figures of 4 for 62 and Prasad, despite his travails, also took a four-for, the fourth successive time he has managed that, but they weren’t potent enough collectively and especially at the top of the day to rattle the Indian batting.

Despite the loss of three early wickets on Sunday, India still had the edge because of their 111-run advantage in the first innings. For Sri Lanka to make a match of it, they needed to strike quickly and in a bunch, but Kohli and Rohit were determined not to allow them a peek into the somewhat undercooked lower middle-order.
Balls outside off were scrupulously left alone, Kohli in particular making a conscious effort to stay tight and play close to his body. In fact, the captain looked the more assured of the two even as Rohit was suckered into distant drives in successive overs against Herath and Mathews off successive balls in the first over.
While Kohli’s dismissal did come as a surprise because he hadn’t looked in any great discomfort, its manner was hardly surprising. Lapsing into old bad habits, he reached out to a wide delivery from Pradeep in the bowler’s first over of a new spell, a juggling Tharanga completing the catch at first slip after a stand of 57.
Binny walked in with men around the bat and a by-now fluent Rohit for company. In three previous innings, he had made only 27, and another failure could have irrevocably set his career back. If Binny was perturbed, it didn’t show; he began with a wonderful flick-drive off Pradeep that screamed to the midwicket fence, then played his strokes with freedom but neither recklessness nor carelessness.
India’s game plan seemed to revolve around the set batsman carrying on and the newcomer playing freely but with commonsense. With Rohit happy to adopt the subsidiary role, Binny unleashed one boundary after another, some off healthy edges and most off the beefy middle. India had made the mistake of being stuck in a rut in its chase in Galle; this time around, it made sure the scoreboard kept moving and Sri Lanka was  a little unprepared to staunch the flow, much like India the previous afternoon.
Before this innings, Rohit had never made a second-innings half-century in ten previous Test knocks. This effort was both worth the wait and worth its weight in gold. Composed and largely in control, he embraced different roles at different stages, though the timing of his dismissal left a lot to be desired. With 20 minutes to lunch, he took on Pradeep but put his pull up to long-leg, taking a justified eternity to walk off the park and ruing his choice of stroke all the way through.
A second 50-plus stand had settled Indian nerves, but at 118 for 5, 229 ahead, there still was plenty of work to do. Binny now took his foot off the pedal as Ojha played handsome strokes on the off side; Binny was the first to depart after an association of 42, one short of his second Test fifty, and Ojha followed a few minutes later when Herath had him caught at cover off the leading edge, but India’s spin twins were far from done.
Mishra’s good batting form and Ashwin’s lean trot had forced the think tank to switch them around, and both took to the swap with élan. The only hesitancy was in running between the wickets. Otherwise, they played the flagging bowling with great ease, Mishra content to let Ashwin uncork the oooh-aaah strokes that included the caress through the covers, the punch through midwicket off nearly an entirely vertical bat, and the dabs to third man off Kaushal and Herath with the ball taken almost off the stumps.
Their stand of 55 for the eighth was followed by 35 for the ninth as Yadav kept the by now flowing Ashwin excellent company. That meant India’s consecutive stands from the fourth wicket on were 57, 54, 42, 19, 55 and 35. None of them massive, but perfectly in keeping with the situation and the conditions.

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