Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
After a sensational century from India captain Virat Kohli, pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar speared through Sri Lanka’s batting line-up with a four-wicket haul. However, their efforts went in vain as Sri Lanka managed to hang on for the draw.
Kohli’s knock of 104 not out was a special one as it brought up his 50th international hundred. He also became the joint-fastest player to accomplish the feat as he matched Hashim Amla’s record of 348 innings. Furthermore, the 29-year-old is just the eighth batsman in history to bring up the milestone.
Starting off the day on 171/1, India lost opening batsman Lokesh Rahul early on as he was cleaned up by Suranga Lakmal for 79, which came off 125 balls and included eight boundaries.
Cheteshwar Pujara only made 22 before falling to Lakmal, while Ajinkya Rahane was trapped lbw for a duck four balls later.
India continued to lose wickets at regular intervals, but Kohli continued to frustrate Sri Lanka.
In the end, the Indian skipper registered his century and immediately declared on 352/8, which set Sri Lanka a target of 231 to win.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Kohli finished unbeaten on 104, which came off 119 balls and included 12 boundaries and two sixes.
Lakmal and Dasun Shanaka picked up three wickets apiece, while Lahiru Gamage and Dilruwan Perera chipped in with one wicket each.
Chasing 231 to win, Sri Lanka got off to an awful start as opener Sadeera Samarawickrama was clean bowled by Kumar on the sixth ball of the innings for a duck.
Dimuth Karunaratne was on his way back to the pavilion shortly after as he suffered the same fate as Samarawickrama, but only off the bowling of Mohammed Shami.
Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews were unable to stem the bleeding as they were sent packing by Kumar and Umesh Yadav for seven and 12 runs respectively.
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal and wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella managed to keep India at bay for a while with a 47-run partnership before Chandimal, who made 20, had his stumps rattled by Shami.
Dickwella fell the very next over as he was given out lbw off the bowling of Kumar for 27.
Kumar then proceeded to remove Dilruwan, but despite Sri Lanka teetering at 75/7, India’s hopes of finishing them off would not come to fruition as bad light led to the match ending as a draw.
Kumar was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while Shami took two and Yadav claimed one.
Chandimal was relieved to have escaped with a draw, and said: “In these kind of conditions, the toss was crucial. We fought hard and competed well. Till the last session, we fought well and played as a team. Unfortunately, the last 10-15 overs brought a lot of pressure but we played good cricket and competed well.
“Lakmal is unbelievable, especially over the last one or two years. He’s one who you can trust as a captain. Rangana scoring runs (laughs), he’s a fighter, unfortunately spinners couldn’t come into the game. We’ll have to learn how to battle, especially in the second innings. In UAE also, we didn’t bat well in the second innings against Pakistan. If we can do that, we can do a lot better.”
Kohli was gutted not to have finished Sri Lanka off, and said: “It was important to make something out of the game with whatever time we had. Conditions changed drastically over the five days. We had to show character, having been on the back foot on day one and day two.
“Credit to Sri Lanka. The team showed a lot of character. We didn’t look at the batting collapse. We believed in our strengths. If you didn’t have intent on this wicket, it would’ve been difficult to survive. That was the key. If we got enough good balls in the right areas, it would’ve been tough. All in all, we’re proud of how we finished.”
Kumar was named Man of the Match, and said: “Frankly speaking, it was tougher to bowl in the second innings as the surface was a lot drier. But the ball was reversing, so that helped. When I made my debut, I was totally dependent on swing. The international circuit tells you what you need to improve on.
“I worked hard on my fitness and that is paying off. We believed we could win. Virat said ‘Imagine we’re in this situation overseas. If we get two-three wickets early, it won’t be easy for them,'”