When Dinesh Chandimal raised his bat after completing his second 50 of the match, it could not have been more awkward for him. Sri Lanka, with eight wickets down, was already on the verge of defeat. As it turned out, they lost to India by an innings and 239 runs, which is their worst defeat in their Test cricket history.
It was always a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, as day four of the second Test match between India and Sri Lanka began. Even those in the Lankan camp perhaps had little hope that Sri Lanka could save the match – winning being a distant dream. Still, if the Lankans had dragged the match till the last session (and preferably, the last hour), they may have managed to save some face.
When the match ended prematurely some time after lunch, with Sri Lanka being skittled out for 166, it brought disgrace to the Lankan cricket team. Losing a match is one thing – but losing it in the manner that Sri Lanka did was unbecoming of a well-established Test cricket-playing nation.
Having already lost opener Sadeera Samarawickrama on the third day, Sri Lanka came out to bat with nine wickets in hand.
On the very second ball of Ravindra Jadeja’s first over, as Karunaratne stepped out, the ball spun and hit the inside of his bat. It went to Murli Vijay (who was stationed at short-leg) with such pace that it would have been dropped four times out of five. However, such was the day for Sri Lanka that Vijay somehow managed to hold on to the catch, thus making it the first inroad into the Sri Lankan order, for the day.
Meanwhile, Lahiru Thirimanne had begun to find his feet, as the ball was rarely spinning in the first hour of play. As he begun to look a little comfortable against spin, Thirimane chose to play the strangest of shots. The southpaw chased an extremely full and wide delivery off Umesh Yadav, only managing to loop it up to Jadeja who comfortably pouched it.
Sri Lanka had all hopes pinned on skipper Dinesh Chandimal and senior batsman Angelo Mathews, who curently form the backbone of Sri Lanka’s middle order.
Mathews looked in a nonchalant mood as he hit Jadeja for a boundary straight over his head without even the slightest movement of his feet. What followed would have certainly not set a great example for the Lankan youngsters. Mathews, as an extension of his blithely unconcerned temper, went for an on-the-rise drive off Jadeja without reaching to the pitch of the ball. As a result, the ball went flying to Rohit Sharma at mid-off, who did not make any mistake.
In came the flamboyant Niroshan Dickwella, who had to face a fierce spell from the lanky Indian pacer, Ishant Sharma. The Lankan keeper, who came in to bat on the back of his delaying tactics in Kolkata, could only survive two dozen deliveries. A short-pitched delivery from Ishant took the outside edge of his bat, and was caught by Virat Kohli in the slips on his second attempt.
Next, Dasun Shanaka came in, and he looked like he was in a hurry to catch the flight to Delhi. Of all the Lankan batters, this all-rounder probably had the strangest approach to the situation.
When he came into bat, the Lankans were tottering at 75-5. What was expected of him was to hold one end and stitch a partnership with the captain, who seemed to be playing well. On the contrary, Shanaka decided to go all guns blazing, taking on Ashwin for a couple of boundaries in one over. After seven deliveries, the inevitable happened, when he was caught in the deep, off Ashwin.
When he got out, his stats showed a strike rate of over 200. To say the least, it seemed as though Shanaka was playing some other format of the game as opposed to the rest of the players.
The spin duo of Herath and Perera departed as soon as they went in.
Dilruwan Perera was trapped lbw on the very first ball he faced. It was an arm ball from Ashwin that undid him. He opted for the DRS, but in vain. His senior partner (Herath) followed in his footsteps soon. He was caught of the second ball he faced, off Ashwin. Both spinners did not trouble the scorers at all, as they departed for naught.
With Sri Lanka eight down, play was extended for 15 minutes for the Indians to do the final mopping-up. The Lankans survived this short span, with Chandimal notching up his second 50 of the match.
After the match resumed after lunch, Lakmal freed his hands to score a few boundaries. Chandimal was looking comfortable at the crease, before he joined the likes of Thirimanne and Shanaka in making a bizarre shot selection. He flicked a ball from Umesh Yadav off his pads, straight to Ashwin at fine leg.
The match came to a fitting end, when Ashwin completed his 300th Test scalp by deceiving Gamage with a carrom ball that brushed the off-stump.
As both teams head to Delhi for the final match of the series, it will be all about honour for Sri Lanka, while India will look to maintain their winning streak.
A version of this article was first published here.