COLOMBO: Fired-up India eyed their first series win in Sri Lanka for 22 years when the home team’s top order collapsed during the decisive final Test in Colombo yesterday. Sri Lanka, set a tough victory target of 386, lost three wickets for 21 runs before moving to 67 without further loss by stumps on a tense fourth day at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Tempers flared in the final session as Ishant Sharma and the Sri Lankan fielders had a heated exchange after Dhammika Prasad bowled three consecutive bouncers to the Indian tailender. Dinesh Chandimal nudged Sharma with his shoulder, forcing umpires Nigel Llong and Rod Tucker to step in to calm down the players. As Sharma hurried off the field after the Indian innings ended, Prasad sprinted behind him and television pictures showed the two players speaking to each other outside the dressing rooms. Indian batsman Rohit Sharma, who hit a halfcentury, played down the on-field tension, saying he saw Ishant Sharma and Prasad chatting over tea after play. “Such incidents happen,” he said. “They are actually very good friends off the field.
I just saw them having tea together after the game, which is good.” Ishant Sharma, who was fined 65 percent of his match fee for misconduct during the second Test, vented his anger with the ball when Sri Lanka’s second innings began. The lanky seamer had Upul Tharanga edging his sixth delivery to wicket-keeper Naman Ojha, and Chandimal was caught by skipper Virat Kohli at second slip after the ball bounced out of third slip Lokesh Rahul’s hands. In between, Umesh Yadav forced Dimuth Karunaratne to edge a catch to Ojha. But opener Kaushal Silva and skipper Angelo Mathews stemmed the rot with an unbroken 46-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Sri Lanka will begin the final day’s play on Tuesday needing 319 more to win in a minimum of 98 overs, with Silva unbeaten on 24 and Mathews on 22. India have not won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993 when Mohammad Azharuddin’s men clinched a 1-0 victory. Rohit Sharma said he hoped India can win, just as they did in the second Test where Sri Lanka were bowled out for 134 chasing a target of 413. “We are in a very good position right now,” he said. “Most of the wickets have been taken by the seamers but the spinners have also done well. “A target of 380-plus is never easy for any team and I guess we will just have to come out tomorrow and do what we did in the previous match. One more job, and we are through.” Resolute batting by India’s lower order had lifted their second innings to 274, with the last six wickets contributing 210 runs after the top four had fallen for 64.
The revival began with a 54-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Rohit Sharma (50) and Stuart Binny (49) before Ravichandran Ashwin smashed 58 to boost the total. Ojha scored 35, but Amit Mishra (39) and Ashwin increased the lead with a 55-run stand for the eighth wicket. Prasad and Pradeep finished with four wickets each on a seaming pitch where 15 wickets had fallen on the third day. Sri Lanka won the opening Test in Galle by 63 runs, but India drew level with a 278-run win in the second match at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo. — AFP