Sri Lanka 131 for 3 (Mathews 57*, Chandimal 25*) trail India 536 for 7 dec (Kohli 243, Vijay 155, Rohit 65, Sandakan 4-167) by 405 runs
Either side of a stop-start hour in which the focus of the Delhi Test shifted to the quality of the city’s air, India extended their dominance over Sri Lanka with bat and ball. Virat Kohli brought up his sixth double-hundred and carried on to post his highest Test score, and, following a declaration in bizarre circumstances at 536 for 7, India’s bowlers took over, reducing Sri Lanka to 131 for 3 in their reply. An unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 56 between Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal raised Sri Lanka’s morale towards the end of the day, but they still ended it trailing by 405 runs.
Sri Lanka’s fielders came out wearing face masks after lunch, and play was twice held up in smoggy conditions, with the air pollution in the vicinity of the Feroz Shah Kotla going up to “very unhealthy” levels. The two fast bowlers, Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal, went off the field midway through their overs, and eventually, with Sri Lanka struggling to put 11 players on the park, Kohli declared, signalling pointedly that his team was happy to bowl in these conditions.
When Sri Lanka began their innings, it was their offspinning allrounder Dilruwan Perera rather than Sadeera Samarawickrama – who had been off the field since being struck on the helmet at short leg on day one – who walked out to open alongside Dimuth Karunaratne.
India’s fast bowlers, with a total of 536 behind them, charged in at full tilt in the half hour that remained before tea, and blasted out two wickets. Karunaratne fell to the first ball of the innings, done in by Mohammed Shami, who angled one into the left-hander from around the wicket, hit the pitch hard on a shortish length, and got it to seam away from him. Forced to play by the angle, he feathered an edge through to the keeper.
Then Ishant Sharma, going wide of the crease, did the No. 3 Dhananjaya de Silva for length. Shuffling across the crease, and neither coming forward nor going back, he jabbed uncertainly at the ball, playing well outside the line, and was struck on the back leg in front of the stumps.
In the first four overs after tea, India dropped two catches at second slip. First, it was Shikhar Dhawan moving in front of Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip, shelling a chest-high chance when Dilruwan drove away from his body at Shami. Then it was Kohli, falling to his left when Mathews poked uncertainly at an Ishant delivery that straightened in the corridor.
Dilruwan, who had looked fairly comfortable since his reprieve, timing his cover drives particularly well, then fell at the end of a 61-run stand with Mathews, sent on his way after India successfully reviewed a not-out lbw decision from Nigel Llong. A straighter one from Ravindra Jadeja struck him in line when he stepped out of the crease, and ball-tracking suggested the ball would have hit the stumps. Dilruwan, however, could have survived had he stretched out a little further; it turned out that the ball had struck his pad 2.99m from the stumps – at 3m, ball-tracking cannot reverse the umpire’s decision.
Mathews looked extremely shaky in the early part of his innings, camping deep in his crease and poking away from his body on numerous occasions. In an effort to bowl fuller at him, however, the fast bowlers occasionally overpitched, and he put those balls away, a straight drive off Ishant particularly eye-catching. Slowly, he grew in confidence, enough to greet R Ashwin’s belated introduction – he came on in the 28th over – by hitting him for successive sixes to bring up his fifty.
In fading light, Mathews and Chandimal survived a testing period before stumps, against Shami’s reverse-swing and the accuracy of Jadeja and Ashwin. With a few overs under his belt, Ashwin began looking particularly dangerous, finding the right pace for this pitch and threatening both edges from over and around the wicket. Bad light brought the examination to a halt three minutes from time, but it will begin all over again when Sri Lanka resume their innings.
India began the day’s play on 371 for 4, and Sri Lanka, having picked up two quick wickets late on day one, may have harboured some hope of clawing their way back into the Test match. If they did, Kohli and Rohit Sharma quelled it with a fifth-wicket partnership of 135. It came to an end off what was to be the second-last ball before lunch, when Rohit fell for 65, bottom-edging a square-cut to the keeper off Lakshan Sandakan.
India lost two more wickets after lunch. Gamage got one with the first ball after the first pollution break, R Ashwin reaching out at a wide one without moving his feet and steering it to gully – it wasn’t the first time he had been dismissed in this manner in the recent past.
Then, in the midst of all the breaks in play, Sri Lanka finally found a way past Kohli. It was Sandakan’s fourth wicket, another good ball amidst an otherwise inconsistent mix, and another reminder of the talent that Sri Lanka will need to nurture with care. Kohli went back to a flat one bowled from left-arm around, perhaps playing the trajectory rather than the length. It skidded on – slow-motion replays indicated it may have been a flipper – and rapped him on the back pad, in front of the stumps. Kohli reviewed, but the ball didn’t have far to travel, and ball-tracking suggested it would have hit a good chunk of leg stump.
If the 87 runs Kohli scored on Sunday didn’t come with quite the same ease as his first 156 on Saturday, it had little to do with Sri Lanka’s bowling, which remained unthreatening and inconsistent. Kohli, instead, had to fight his own body, which was beginning to show the toll taken by scoring three successive Test hundreds. A stiff back slowed him down between wickets, and brought India’s physio onto the field, but Kohli just kept batting.
Sri Lanka persisted with spin for the first six overs of the morning, hoping for Sandakan to conjure up a wicket or two, but neither he nor Dilruwan made any impact on the pair in the middle. Rohit, on 6 overnight, took no time settling in, and launched Sandakan over long-off in the fourth over of the day before picking up two more fours in the next two overs.
On came the second new ball, and Kohli clipped Lakmal’s first ball to the midwicket boundary. It turned out to be the first of six fours – the pick of them a Rohit pull off Gamage, hit just wide of mid-on – in six overs from which Lakmal and Gamage conceded 32. Kohli soon swept past the 200 mark, getting there with a pulled double off Lakmal, after which Rohit reached his fifty with a straight six off Dilruwan.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo