Kumara Chokshanada Sangakkara visited the cricket pitch for the last time in his career after the dismissal of Kaushal Silva in the third over of Sri Lanka’s second innings. He didn’t have a fairytale ending to his cricketing career but that didn’t stop his fans from getting emotional after he fell to Ravichandran Ashwin for the fourth time in four innings. Widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of modern era, Sangakkara dominated Sri Lankan cricket with long time team mate and friend Mahela Jayawardene. The duo’s closest comparison could be India’s Sachin Tendulkar, who had the same cricketing effect in the Indian sub-continent. Other than being a polished and prudent cricketer, Sanga was extremely articulate, when he spoke on any subject. His 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture gained worldwide attention. He was the youngest and the first active international player to deliver that lecture, which brought him rich accolades from the worldwide cricketing community. What if he couldn’t score against India in the ongoing test-series, the mercurial Sanga dominated the top spot in ICC Test batting rankings over the past decade and as recently as August 12, 2015, he still occupied the no.5 spot. On Sunday, Sangakkara struck two copybook boundaries off Ishant Sharma; a remarkable whip off his hips and a checked drive down the ground. But he couldn’t last long as he got foxed by one of R Ashwin’s perfectly-pitched off-breaks, to which he went forward and got an outside edge that was lapped up in the second slip by Murali Vijay. At the end of third day’s play, Sri Lanka were 72/2, still a long way off from avoiding defeat.
India’s batting on fourth day was a curious mixture of strength and vulnerability. After Vijay and Rahane added 140 runs, Vijay and Kohli fell quickly. There was another 85-run partnership between Rahane and Rohit Sharma but once Rohit fell as the fifth wicket, the batting crumbled. After 79 overs, Wriddhiman Saha walked off with some injury and Ashwin replaced him. Probably time was on India’s mind and not runs. It looked as if India wanted Sri Lanka to bat a sizeable number of overs late on the fourth day and they declared at 325/8 after 91 overs. Earlier in the day, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane played superb knocks that laid the foundation of their second innings. The good thing about Indian batting on fourth day was not succumbing to Rangana Herath. However, Dhammika Prasad and Tharindu Kaushal did cause problems later in the day. Rahane made use of his feet in shortening Herath’s ball and hitting him for boundaries and a six. Then Vijay also lofted the bowlers twice. Soon Vijay began limping and it indicated that his hamstring injury was back. Saha also suffered from the muscle problem as he retired. After Vijay was deceived by Kaushal, who bowled him at 82, the bowler also trapped Kohli LBW. But Rahane went on to complete his century and Rohit Sharma also contributed 34. Next three wickets could only muster 51 runs as India declared.
When Sri Lanka began their second innings, they had a victory target of 413. Kohli asked Ashwin to take the new ball and Lokesh Rahul kept wickets as Saha couldn’t take the field. Ashwin was quick to strike with a soft full-toss. Kaushal Silva looked like giving a catching practice to Stuart Binny at short midwicket. That brought to the crease the legendary Kumara Sangakkara for the last time in his test career. Once again, the entire Indian team lined up for the Guard of Honor. The great Sri Lankan, however, didn’t last long. After making 18 off 18 balls, Sanga ironically fell for the fourth time in four innings to his bunny Ravichandran Ashwin. Mathews joined the other opener Dimuth Karunaratne and the two carried the day for Sri Lanka as they finished at 72/2, when stumps were drawn.
Sri Lanka will need to bat whole of the last day, even if they do not take the challenge of scoring the remaining 341 runs. For India, it will be the first genuine bowling challenge to take the remaining 8 wickets that are on offer. They came to Sri Lanka with the much-hyped 5-bowler strategy and time has now come that they demonstrated their bowling skills.