Sri Lanka fights back af­ter In­dia’s solid start in 3rd Test

Dhawan and Rahul share 188-run open­ing-wicket part­ner­ship on first day of third Test

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Sri Lanka hit back through the or­tho­dox spin of Malinda Push­paku­mara (3-40) and the un­ortho­dox spin of Lak­shan San­dakan (2-84)

The first half of the day pro­duced a mas­sive open­ing part­ner­ship, a seventh suc­ces­sive 50-plus score for Lokesh Rahul (85) and a sec­ond cen­tury of the tour for Shikhar Dhawan (119).

Then, Sri Lanka hit back through its trio of left-arm­ers, the or­tho­dox spin of Malinda Push­paku­mara (3-40), the un­ortho­dox spin of Lak­shan San­dakan (2-84), and the swing of Vishwa Fer­nando (1-68).

In­dia scored 188 with­out loss in the first 39.2 overs of the day, and 141 for six in the re­main­ing 50.4.

Hav­ing won its third toss of the se­ries, In­dia would have taken 329 for six at stumps, given the strength of its lower or­der, and given the amount of turn - al­beit slow, for now - this Pallekele pitch is be­gin­ning to of­fer. But, given the po­si­tion In­dia's open­ers put it in, Sri Lanka would have ended the day thrilled with its ef­forts to pull things back.

The first two wick­ets came from ag­gres­sive shots against Push­paku­mara, Rahul step­ping out and fail­ing to clear mid-on, and Dhawan sweep­ing hard but up­pishly to square leg. Given that open­ing, Sri Lanka's bowlers en­sured the pres­sure did not let up. Hav­ing seemed to go through the mo­tions right through the morn­ing ses­sion and for most of the post-lunch ses­sion, they sud­denly be­gan bowl­ing with pur­pose.

Push­paku­mara bowled much fuller here, at­tack­ing the stumps and keep­ing bats­men guess­ing with his scram­bled-seam de­liv­ery. He en­tered the at­tack late - in the 40th over of In­dia's in­nings - but made such an im­pact that Dil­ruwan Per­era, Sri Lanka's most se­nior spin­ner, didn't bowl a sin­gle ball af­ter lunch.

San­dakan, mean­while, forced the bats­men to keep a wary eye on his wrist to pick the vari­a­tions out of his hand, and in the process, they some­times mis­read his vari­a­tions in tra­jec­tory. Chetesh­war Pu­jara (8), rock­ing back to cut one that wasn't short enough, top-edged to slip. Vi­rat Kohli and Ajinkya Ra­hane (17) saw out a test­ing pe­riod until tea, and found no re­lease af­ter the in­ter­val.

San­dakan kept float­ing the ball above Ra­hane's eye­line and got it to dip, forc­ing him to reach for the ball. Dip un­did Ra­hane and a loose drive un­did Kohli, even if the bowler in each case wasn't the one that ini­ti­ated the re­spec­tive plans.

Ra­hane, reach­ing well in front of his body, played across a Push­paku­mara ball that didn't turn and also kept slightly low. Kohli, hav­ing fought his way to 42, threw his hands at a wide, flighted goo­gly from San­dakan and nicked to slip.

With 13 balls left in the day, Fer­nando, armed with the sec­ond new ball, be­lat­edly struck. In his 18th over of the day, he slanted one across R Ash­win 931), pitch­ing just short of a good length.

In his pre­vi­ous over, from the other end, he had kept swing­ing the ball back in. This one just went with the an­gle; Ash­win poked, and Niroshan Dick­wella dived across first slip to grab a stun­ning one-han­der.

Ear­lier in the morn­ing, the In­dian open­ers scored their runs at 4.75 per over, with Dhawan go­ing at close to a run a ball, cap­i­tal­is­ing on the small­est sign of width from the quicks and us­ing his feet su­perbly against spin.

Rahul made his seventh suc­ces­sive 50-plus score in Test matches, be­com­ing the joint record-holder along­side Ever­ton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shiv­nar­ine Chan­der­paul, Ku­mar San­gakkara and Chris Rogers.

SHIKHAR 119runs LOKESH 85runs DHAWAN 123 balls RAHUL 135 balls

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