In test cricket history, it was the first instance in an overseas tour that India bounced back from a 0-1 deficit to record a series victory. They have done that twice in home series. Once during England’s tour of India in 1972, the visitors had taken a 1-0 lead but India won the series 2-1 in the end. Again, when Australia toured India in 2001, they defeated the hosts at Mumbai’s first test but India turned the tide and won the next two tests at Kolkata and Chennai. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka had lost 5 wickets for 107 and just when it looked that the end would come soon, Angelo Mathews and Kusal Perera frustrated India’s bowlers with a 135-run sixth wicket stand. Mathews scored his second century of the series and Perera made 70. Of the 78 overs that India got on the last day, Mathews and Perera consumed 38.1! While the Sri Lanka skipper was holding one end, Perera scored briskly at the other. With 40 overs remaining, Sri Lanka required 144. Not a big deal but the hosts ran out of their luck. Perera fell to an attempted reverse sweep that looped up and Rohit Sharma gleefully accepted the gift. Perera’s departure opened the floodgates and there was a bee-line of batsmen returning to pavilion with Mathews’ seventh wicket leading them. The last five Sri Lankan wickets fell in a heap for just 24 runs and Indian cricketers’ joy knew no bounds. They had arrived in Sri Lanka to record a series win and began very well. India controlled the first test at Galle until Chandimal’s counter-attack stood in their way. Then Rangana Herath wreaked havoc on the last day and India were humiliated like never before. But the second test victory brought them back into the reckoning and on Tuesday, the victory at Colombo by 117 runs gave India a rare series win.
When Sri Lanka came to chase the remaining 319 runs on the final day, they had seven wickets and the entire days play left. In the 22nd over of the second innings, overnight unbeaten opener Kaushal Silva gifted the first wicket to India. He dragged an offside bouncer from Umesh Yadav and only managed a top edge, which resulted in the simplest of catches to Cheteshwar Pujara at short midwicket. Angelo Mathews now had Lahiru Thirimanne for company. The pair had added 33 for the fifth wicket, when Thirimanne fell to a leading edge off Ashwin with Lokesh Rahul snapped up a brilliant catch at silly-point. At 107/5, it looked as if the hosts wouldn’t last long. But with Kusal Perera joining Mathews in the middle, an unexpected transformation took place. The two batsmen played steadily and denied India any further pleasure for the next 38 overs. Captain Mathews really anchored the innings by holding one end, while Perera scored briskly on the other side. At one stage, it seemed Sri Lanka were trying to fork out an unprecedented recovery by turning the tables on India. However, after the partnership was worth 135 runs, Perera went for a killer reverse sweep. That became Sri Lanka’s undoing as the batsman could only manage a top-edged catch to Rohit Sharma. After toiling for long, India roared back into the match and chopped off the Sri Lankan tail by yielding only 24 runs and grabbing the last four wickets in the next 9 overs.
Mathews’ 242-ball 110 runs went in vain as India won by 117 runs to record their first overseas victory after the one on their West Indies tour of 2011. It has been four years since then and 22 years since India won a series in Sri Lanka. Virat Kohli has won the series for the first time as captain. Incidentally, Ishant Sharma hogged the limelight for being the hero of India’s last three test match victories with Lords 2014 being his high point. When Ishant dismissed Mathews, he reached the 200-wicket mark in test cricket. At presentations, Cheteshwar Pujara was adjudged as man-of-the-match while R Ashwin won the man-of-the-series award for his 21 wickets and a timely fifty in the second innings of the third test.
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