It was a perfect day for India, leaving Sri Lanka battling for survival yet again. No pollution-related pun intended.
Set an improbable target of 410, Sri Lanka ended the fourth day of the third Test in New Delhi on 31 for 3, with Dhananjaya de Silva and Angelo Mathews in the middle.
The day panned out exactly as India would have hoped. They took the last remaining Sri Lankan wicket early in the day to bowl Sri Lanka out for 373, and then their batsmen took over. Shikhar Dhawan (67), Virat Kohli (50) and Rohit Sharma (50*) scored half-centuries while Cheteshwar Pujara missed his by one run as India raced to 246 for 5 in 52.2 overs before calling their innings close.
India had a possible 29 overs to have a go at Sri Lanka but they could sneak in only 16 before bad light came into play. That period was enough for the hosts to get rid of Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dimuth Karunaratne and Suranga Lakmal, the nightwatchman. Sri Lanka will have to produce an encore of their first-innings performance if they are to save the game.
With plenty of runs to bowl with, Mohammed Shami set the tone with an incredibly hostile spell with the new ball that accounted for Samarawickrama. Shami hurled two unplayable bouncers at the opener, who managed to evade the first one before gloving the second to gully.
Shami could not continue his spell thanks to poor light and also had to leave the field as he was vomiting. It gave Ravindra Jadeja a chance, though, and the left-arm spinner responded by having Karunaratne caught behind and Lakmal bowled. He nearly had Dhananjaya de Silva too, given out leg before, but the batsman survived after reviewing successfully.
The only blip for India was when they lost M Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane early. Once Vijay fell after a couple of boundaries, India gave the out of form Rahane a promotion to No. 3, but the move backfired as he struggled throughout for a 37-ball 10. He survived two leg before appeals on reviews and was generally tentative, struggling to rotate strike on a slow pitch against disciplined bowling.
With Dhawan too taking a more cautious approach, the frustration began to show on Rahane. He finally succumbed to the pressure, stepping out and lofting Dilruwan Perera straight to long-on in an attempt to attack his way into form.
Pujara then showed how it’s done, scoring fluently and helping India pick up pace in the process. He did it with terrific footwork against the spinners, often charging down and converting deliveries into full tosses or half-volleys.
Against the run of play, Pujara played for non-existent turn and edged a straight ball from de Silva to slip on 49. But his positive approach rubbed off on Dhawan, who opened up by taking Lakshan Sandakan for a straight six before being stumped while going for another.
Rohit and Kohli then took over, scoring briskly for their half-centuries. Kohli fell after his fifty, which also took his series tally past 600, while India declared immediately after Rohit reached his milestone.
Earlier, Dinesh Chandimal got his highest Test score in a marathon 361-ball 164 to eat into India’s total. The Sri Lankan added 30 for the lasst wicket with Sandakan before being the last man out, slashing Ishant Sharma to third man to hand the pacer his third wicket of the innings.