Sri Lanka were down for the count in the first two days of the Galle Test. They were blown away by Ravichandran Ashwin in the first innings to be bowled out for 183. Centuries from Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan helped India reach 375, a lead of 192. In Tests, only seven times before had a team overcome a 150-plus deficit to win a match. Sri Lanka’s doom was almost confirmed at lunch on day three when they were 95/5. However, luck, Dinesh Chandimal and Rangana Herath all combined to thwart Virat Kohli’s team.(Mathews Speechless)
All this would not have been possible had Chandimal not gotten two reprieves thanks to the absence of DRS. On one, he attempted a sweep which grazed the edge and hit his helmet but the umpire did not spot the edge. In the next over, he hit a drive which hit Rohit Sharma’s boot on the full and Mishra took the catch, only for the third umpire to rule it not out. These two bits of luck seemed to have confounded India. It would be a strange twist of fate if India reconsider their opposition to the DRS after this series. In the 2008 series in Sri Lanka, India decided to be anti-DRS. In the 2015 series, they might decide to ditch the anti-DRS stand.
After the lunch resumption, Chandimal swept Ashwin for a boundary and launched Mishra into the stands to signal his attacking intent but with Sri Lanka still trailing behind by a big margin, the alarm bells were not ringing. However, Chandimal decided to counter the Indian spinners with the one shot that blunted their effectiveness. The sweep shot had reaped rich dividends in his first innings knock of 59 and it was helping him in this knock as well. With every ball he faced, he grew in confidence and notched up his fifty off 48 balls.(Kohli Slams Team)
While Chandimal was attacking, Lahiru Thirimanne made good progress. Kohli was now trapped between containment and attack. In the end, he did neither and Chandimal made him pay. In one session, they scored 155 runs in 28 overs at a run-rate of just under five. Sri Lanka had turned the tables. Chandimal’s unbeaten 162, along with his partnerships with the lower order, helped Sri Lanka in overturning a 192-run deficit into a target of 176 for India.
The approach by India on the fourth day symbolised their deflated morale. In the past couple of seasons, they have been undone by spinners. Moeen Ali did the damage in the 2014 England series, Nathan Lyon during the Australia series in 2014/15 and now they allowed Rangana Herath to weave his magic.(Mathews Credits Teamwork)
With sore knees and back, Herath drew inspiration from Chandimal’s brilliance and he set about dismantling the Indian batting with his guile. His accuracy choked India and they never got going. His haul of 7/48 was his second best in Tests and it was backed up by some wonderful fielding, especially Kaushal Silva at short leg. However, had it not been for the pressure generated by Nuwan Pradeep and Tharindu Kaushal, Herath might have struggled after a listless show in the first innings.
This 63-run win comes as a shot in the arm for Sri Lanka, who lost to Pakistan in all three formats last month and will be without Sangakkara after the second Test. After the end of the match, Herath said he had drawn inspiration from Chandimal. “Chandimal and his partnerships were vital. What I thought is I need to give my best. I gave my 100 percent, that is why I succeeded,” he said. On the other hand, Chandimal highlighted Herath’s brilliance by stating, “We all know he is a legend.”(How Indians Went for Hero to Zero)
The fact that India failed to capitalise on one session was not lost on Kohli when he said, “We failed to capitalise after taking the first five wickets, we should have finished the game in that session. One bad session and the game can turn, that is how Test cricket is.” For the moment, Sri Lanka can revel in this magnificent turnaround while for India, their overseas woes continue.