The Indian bowling attack was rewarded for its perseverance on a lifeless track as the hosts reduced Sri Lanka to 356 for nine after defiant hundreds from Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal in the final Test in New Delhi. Ravichandran Ashwin (3/90 in 35 overs), who has been Virat Kohli's 'Go To Man' in home conditions, got quick breakthroughs in the final session as the tourists ended the third day's play of the third Test 180 runs behind. (HIGHLIGHTS).
Ashwin's victims included Mathews (111), Roshen Silva (0) and Niroshan Dickwella (0), as India wrested back the advantage from the Islanders, who frustrated the bowlers in the first two sessions.
Highlights, India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Day 3: Ashwin leads hosts fight back after Mathews, Chandimal tons
The other highlight for India was Wriddhiman Saha asserting himself as the best wicketkeeper in world cricket with stunning catches off Ishant Sharma (2/93 in 27 overs) and Mohammed Shami's (2/74 in 23 overs) bowling.
Ravindra Jadeja (2/85 in 44 overs) bowled his customary tight lines, not giving batsmen much room to play their strokes. Having overpowered Sri Lanka throughout the year, this effort will give Indian bowlers more satisfaction considering the game was being played on a flat track.
Sri Lanka on their part, would be happy to have saved follow-on, which will ensure that they don't need to bat long enough in the second innings in order to save the Test match.
In the previous five Test matches which lasted 16 and half days out of 25, this was the first time that the Lankans put up some resistance courtesy their two senior pros.
The Indians will have something to worry about as this innings has been one of their worst fielding efforts with as many as five catches being dropped.
Under fire for his below-par show in the preceding games, Mathews dug deep into his reservoir of experience to score his eighth Test hundred and added 181 runs in 79.2 overs with the in-form skipper Chandimal, who hit his 10th ton.
Chandimal batted the whole day, scoring 147 off 341 balls with 18 boundaries and a six.
Sri Lanka's senior-most batsman put his hand up when it mattered and was at the crease for six hours and 20 minutes while facing 268 balls. Mathews hit 14 boundaries and two sixes before Ashwin got one to drift away and as the former captain shaped up to play for an off-break, the resultant tickle was accepted by Saha.
Mathews was dropped thrice -- on 6, 98 and 104 by Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma (both slips) and substitute fielder Vijay Shankar at mid-off. Chandimal was also dropped once during his innings.
In the recent memory, very rarely had an Indian attack got only a single wicket over two sessions like it happened today at the Kotla, where the Sri Lankan players had no complaints over pollution-related issues.
Ashwin was strangely underbowled in the first two sessions, considering that the two new ball bowlers sent down 51 overs between them.
Such had been the Indian dominance that Mathews and Chandimal put up the first-century stand of the series in only the final match. It also helped that two of Sri Lanka's most experienced batsmen shouldered the responsibility under pressure.
The Lankan captain, who hit his third consecutive 50 plus score had till the tea break played 262 balls, hitting 13 boundaries.
Normally known for his flamboyance, Chandimal, who has often been referred as 'Rohit Sharma of Sri Lanka' for his immense talent, curbed his natural instincts and showed discretion in his shot selection.
The Indian bowlers could not be faulted despite little assistance from the track.
Ishant got some of the deliveries to rear up awkwardly, but the Lankan duo did not do anything impetuous, leaving most of them alone. Ishant, in particular, bowled a testing spell to Mathews, with some of the deliveries coming into him after hitting the seam.
However, his short deliveries most of the times could be left alone as they were not pitched in the right areas. After the first hour, Kohli brought back Shami to make good use of the old ball, but there was not much reverse swing on offer.
Ishant got a reward in the final session when Sadeera Samarawickrama (33) nicked one for Saha to take a brilliant one-handed catch. Saha repeated the act, but that was a two-handed effort off Shami's bowling to dismiss Suranga Lakmal.
(With PTI Inputs)