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IND vs SL 1st Test Day 3: Chandimal 162* Leaves India Tricky Chase

By on August 14, 2015

India 375 and 23 for 1 (Herath 1-13) need another 153 to beat Sri Lanka 183 and 367 (Chandimal 162*, Mubarak 49, Ashwin 4-114, Mishra 3-61)….

What began as a low-percentage humpty from Dinesh Chandimal ended as a high-quality counterattack of 162 not out off 169 balls to set India a tricky target of 176, nearly double the highest successful chase in Galle. He came in with Sri Lanka still 100 runs behind with only six wickets in hand, which soon became a deficit of 97 with five in hand.

He scored 162 of the 275 runs that came while he was at the wicket. He did enjoy some good fortune, surviving early on through an umpiring mistake and then through inferior technology available for third-umpire decisions, but the second half of his innings, shepherding the tail, was special. He was helped along by 40s from Lahiru Thirimanne and Jehan Mubarak. India ended the day by losing KL Rahul, lbw playing back to a full ball from Rangana Herath.

India were rattled by him, and for large parts you couldn’t tell how they were planning to get a wicket. R Ashwin, though, kept at it, and ended up with four wickets, his first 10-wicket haul outside India. Ajinkya Rahane at slip and gully helped him along, taking five in the innings to reach world-record eight catches in the match.

IND vs SL 1st Test Day 3: Chandimal

Credits: ESPN CricInfo

India will, or should, be forced to rethink their absolute stance against DRS. The two decisions that went against them with Chandimal and Thirimanne, both in single figures, did not involve any technology that the BCCI is suspicious of. They were clear edges missed by the umpires – who have been ordinary in this match – and would likely have been easily overturned without looking at any projections of the ball path.

This was minutes before lunch, just after Ashwin and Amit Mishra – the latter took three wickets – had broken a brisk and assured 87-run partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews. Chandimal came out playing his shots, and his first one was a top edge onto his helmet and through to backward short leg. Not given.

If Ashwin was the aggrieved party here, Mishra was to be denied soon. A legbreak took the inside edge of Thirimanne onto his pad, and then into the hands of short leg only for Nigel Llong to join Bruce Oxenford in making mistakes in those frenetic minutes before lunch.

Soon Chandimal drove Mishra into the boot of silly point. The ball lobbed up for a catch that India claimed. Replays suggested there was no touch with the ground but not conclusively so. Even though there was no puff of dust, the third umpire couldn’t have been sure given the frame rate of the visuals provided to him.

Everything went right for Chandimal. It looked like an innings impossible to sustain. When he connected, he connected well, when he mis-hit, the ball somehow failed to find a fielder; when he was clearly out, the umpire didn’t see the edge, and when he was out in all likelihood, lack of proper replays rescued him.

He played a bit like Ravindra Jadeja at Lord’s last year, a low-percentage innings during which all risks came off. Jadeja’s half-century back then gave India a winning lead. Chandimal certainly gave Sri Lanka a chance.

After lunch, Chandimal and Thirimanne made full use of the reprieves. Chandimal might have had all the luck with him, but he should get the credit for attacking India off their rhythm. His sweeping, reverse-sweeping and switch-hitting distracted the spinners, and the quicks failed to string together good deliveries when attacked.

There was a spell of 20 overs without a maiden when India kept going past the bat, but also were taken for easy runs. Whatever pressure would build would dissipate as Chandimal and Thirimanne broke through with some excellent shots. The slog sweep remained their favourite.

As Sri Lanka attacked, Kohli’s worried demeanour suggested how tricky chasing on this pitch could be. He will be disappointed that none of his bowlers could maintain any control when attacked. Even with the ball reversing the quicks failed to string together tight overs.

Harbhajan Singh remained unimpressive, bowling with little venom or patience. Ashwin, who remained persistent even when Mathews attacked, lost his line and length in face of an unconventional attack from Chandimal. Against Thirimanne, though, he kept the examination on, and made him his seventh left-hand victim in the match when he drew the edge for another excellent catch for Rahane at slip.

Mubarak, with an average of 17 after 11 Tests and on a pair, jumped out of the crease third ball, and hoisted Mishra for an emphatic six. Mubarak failed to get a maiden fifty, but played arguably the cleanest innings of the match, driving languidly, using the depth of the crease after front-foot shots, adding 82 with Chandimal to take the lead 110.

It was still quite comfortable for India with three tail-enders of modest batting credentials to follow, but Chandimal manipulated the strike expertly, taking 45 of the 83 balls bowled after the seventh wicket and scoring 52 of the 65 runs.

He was not averse to taking a single off the fourth ball or later, but when he couldn’t, he managed hit five boundaries off the last two balls of overs from Ashwin, Ishant and Varun Aaron. In the second half of the innings Chandimal looked assured, his risky start a distant memory.

Another distant memory was an easy win for India, which looked quite probable in the minutes before lunch. Facing the tricky target, having to play eight overs before stumps, India lost Rahul, but the nightwatchman Ishant Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan – allowed to open despite not taking the field because his hand injury was external – went to stumps unseparated. An interesting chase was set up for India’s Independence Day.

Rahane had earlier taken a stunner diving to his left to send Sangakkara back. Sangakkara had been excellent at playing inside the line of sharp offbreaks in scoring 40 in his last innings at Galle, but with 20 minutes to go to lunch he was a little late in withdrawing his bat when he intended to leave a flat offbreak well outside off.

Mishra then got a legbreak to kick at a forward defence from Mathews for a catch at silly point. The two looked unplayable during that spell, and might well have been in their hotel by tea but for India’s inexplicable resistance to any form of DRS.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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