By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, Nov 20 (IANS) Riding skipper Virat Kohli’s superlative 50th international hundred, India came tantalisingly close to a victory but lack of time forced them to finish three wickets short and share the spoils with Sri Lanka on an eventful final day of the first Test at the Eden Gardens here on Monday.
Replying to India’s second innings score of 352/8 declared, the visitors were reeling at 75/7 chasing 231, when umpires Nigel Llong and Joel Wilson decided there was not enough light to continue the game.
There were still 5.3 overs to be bowled before the mandatory overs could begin.
Kohli led from the front on the final day with an unbeaten 104 off 119 balls that included 12 fours and two sixes to help India take a 230 run lead after initial jitters.
It was the talsiamnic batsman’s 50th international hundred — 18th in Tests, 11th as skipper, and the first at the hallowed ground.
Following up, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/8) and Mohammed Shami (2/34) bowled superbly to drag the islanders to the cusp of defeat.
Coming to the crease at a time the hosts were struggling in the first session courtesy Suranga Lakmal’s devastating spell of swing bowling,
Kohli held fort at one end milking all the bowlers around the park with equal severity.
For Sri Lanka, Lakmal (3/93) and Dasun Shanaka (3/76) were the pick of the bowlers.
Kohli was circumspect with Lakmal, who took his wicket in the first innings, initially before hitting the same bowler for a six to bring
up his ton, and equal Gavaskar’s feat of 11 Test centuries as skipper.
The right-hander was given out lbw when he was batting on 72 off a Lakmal delivery but he asked for a review which showed bat first.
At the other end, Ravichandran Ashwin (7), Wriddhiman Saha (5) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (8) could not add much to the total.
Shanaka accounted for Ashwin and Saha while Lahiru Gamage (1/97) packed Bhuvneshwar back to the hut.
The tourists started off disastrously, losing their top four batsmen for just 22 runs.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed opener Sadeera Samarawickrama for a duck with Dimuth Karunaratne (1) following suit soon after, dragging a Mohammed Shami ball onto his stumps.
First innings half centurion Lahiru Thirimanne (7) was taken at gully by Ajinkya Rahane off Bhuvneshwar’s delivery.
Angelo Mathews (12), who also batted well in the first innings scoring 52, did not survive a review after umpire Llong initially put his finger up to a lbw decision. Umesh Yadav was the bowler.
Visiting captain Dinesh Chandimal (20 off 33; 3×4) and wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella (27) tried to stem the rot by stitching together a 47-run stand for the fifth wicket before Chandimal was castled by a 144 kmph Shami ripper.
Dickwella’s outside edge flew to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha off Bhuvneshwar’s delivery and the Bengal stumper claimed the catch only for action replays to show the ball did not carry to him.
Dickwella survived once more after umpire Llong adjudjed him out lbw only for the review to turn the decision down.
With Sri Lanka under great pressure, Lokesh Rahul and Kohli tried some sledging on Dickwella, but umpire Llong intervened in time.
It was finally curtains for the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper batsman when Bhuvneshwar got one to come back from the good length spot and wrap him on the pad. It was the 24th over, and the tourists were 69 for 6.
Bhuvneshwar made it 75 for 7 in his next over as he bowled a shorter of a delivery that angled in from wide off the crease, beat Dilruwan
Perera’s bat and sent his leg stump cart wheeling.
Bhuvneshwar’s eight-wicket haul earned him the Player of the Match award.
Earlier, Lakmal took three wickets to blunt India’s surge but Kohli helped the hosts post 251/5 at lunch.
Resuming on an overnight score of 171/1, the hosts did not start brightly owing to Lakmal’s devastating spell (8-2-19-3).
The hero of Sri Lanka’s first innings sent Rahul (79 off 125; 8×4), Cheteshwar Pujara (22 off 51; 3×4) and Ajinkya Rahane (0) packing.
Rahul once again failed to convert his start into a big score, the seventh time in nine innings he has been guilty of doing so, when an
in-dipping Lakmal delivery knocked off his middle stump.
Another highlight of the final daw was Pujara’s feat of becoming only the third Indian cricketer, after head coach Ravi Shastri and M.L.
Jaisimha to have batted on all five days of a Test match.
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