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IND vs SL 2nd Test Day 3: India Seize The Day After Mathews Century

By on August 22, 2015

India 393 and 70 for 1 (Vijay 39*, Rahane 28*) lead Sri Lanka 306 (Mathews 106, Thirimanne 62, Silva 51, Mishra 4-43) by 157 runs…

Angelo Mathews scored his sixth Test century and dominated a wicketless first session but Sri Lanka lost their way thereafter, losing their last seven wickets for 65 runs as India ran to a dominant position at the end of day three.

Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne resisted the steady drip of pressure exerted by India’s bowlers, adding 127 for the fourth wicket, but the rest of Sri Lanka’s batting couldn’t cope with it. Having secured a first-innings lead of 87, India extended it to 157 for the loss of just one wicket.

India lost KL Rahul in the first over of their second-innings, bowled off the inside edge by a Dhammika Prasad inducker, before Vijay and Rahane saw them through to stumps.

They did this without too many alarms, though Rangana Herath troubled both batsmen with his straighter one, having two strong lbw appeals turned down against Vijay and one against Rahane. Rod Tucker made the right decision each time, with one striking the inside edge and two seeming to be missing leg.

IND vs SL 2nd Test Day 3: Amit Mishra

Credits: ESPN CricInfo

Just as they had done on day two, India’s bowlers probed away with discipline on a pitch offering them just enough to keep asking questions, but Mathews and Thirimanne were more than equal to the task. In all, it was riveting Test cricket, with Mathews using his nous and Thirimanne showing impressive patience to strengthen Sri Lanka’s position and leave them the happier of the two sides at lunch.

India seemed to be letting the initiative slide even further when, in the second over after lunch, Ishant Sharma went around the wicket to try and bombard Mathews with bouncers. He had long leg and deep square leg in place, but the deliveries he sent down were so lacking in venom that Mathews still managed to pull and glance him for three successive fours. Wisely, India shelved the short-ball tactic.

The round-the-wicket angle, however, brought Ishant reward in his next over, though it was Thirimanne who succumbed, nicking behind while trying to drive one that straightened from a fullish length. He looked displeased with the umpire’s decision, but replays were inconclusive.

A short rain interruption followed, after which Ishant struck again to remove Dinesh Chandimal, who pressed forward and pushed away from his body at one that seamed away. During his spell, Ishant’s use of the bouncer became less predictable and harder to play, and he struck Chandimal’s helmet and Jehan Mubarak’s glove while they ducked with their eyes off the ball.

Mathews moved to his hundred – his sixth in Tests – with the most audacious shot of his innings, reverse-sweeping R Ashwin against the turn, off a ball that straightened from middle stump, and finding the gap to the left of point.

But he was gone three balls later, poking at a good-length ball outside off – a shot he may not have played had he not been batting on three figures – to give Stuart Binny his first Test wicket. The frenetic action continued in the next over, when Mishra bowled a legbreak laden with overspin and bounce to force Dhammika Prasad to pop a simple catch to slip.

Five overs into the post-tea session, Sri Lanka were all out. Mishra picked up two of the last three wickets, and bowled the ball of the day to ensnare Mubarak. The left-hander pressed forward to defend, not realising that late drift away from him had subtly changed the line of the ball; it pitched on off stump, rather than off and middle, and straightened past his outside edge to clip off stump. It had taken India only 22.1 overs to pick up the last seven wickets. Sri Lanka’s situation had been utterly transformed from the calmness of the first session.

There was a sense of opportunism about the way Mathews batted, using the angles to create run-scoring opportunities, particularly through the leg side. In the sixth over of the morning, Mathews flicked Umesh Yadav square of midwicket, from an off-stump line, to pick up a boundary.

The last ball of the over wasn’t quite as full, and he delayed the moment when he closed the bat face to work it wide of mid-on for a single. First ball of the next over, he repeated the same shot against Ishant Sharma. Three fairly good balls, six runs scored.

But above all, the innings showcased Mathews’ ability to make his game work for him. His technique isn’t flawless – his front-foot stride isn’t the longest, and his bottom hand often dominates – but while the odd ball leaves him looking uncomfortable, he finds ways to minimise any damage it may cause.

Late on day two, Umesh had opened him up three times with his outswinger. But he made sure he didn’t edge any of them, refusing to follow the ball with his hands. It happened again when Umesh was re-introduced to the attack ten minutes before lunch on day three.

Again, Mathews played with bat close to body, happy for the ball to beat his edge by a fair distance. In between, Amit Mishra frequently puzzled him with his flight and dip, but he adjusted and played the second line, with soft hands.

Thirimanne, usually easy on the eye but prone to errors, followed Mathews’ example beautifully. There was an early period of discomfort against Ishant, who angled it across the left-hander from a tight, off-stump line and found bounce and occasional seam movement, but he grew increasingly solid as the day progressed.

Thirimanne was happy enough to defend ball after ball, and waited for the delivery he could cut: that shot brought him all three of his fours in a morning session that saw him advance his score by 29 runs, off 74 balls. In the process, he showed a glimpse of what he could offer Sri Lanka if he marries grit to his natural ability on a more frequent basis.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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