Angelo Mathews (52) and Lahiru Thirimanne (51) helped Sri Lanka post 165/4 and trail India by only seven runs at stumps on the third day of the first cricket Test at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday. India pacer Umesh Yadav took two wickets to get rid of the pair who stitched together a 99-run stand for the third wicket. At the close of play, skipper and birthday boy Dinesh Chandimal (12) and wicketkeeper-batsman Niroshan Dickwella (14) were at the crease. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/49) took two wickets before tea while Mohammed Shami (0/53) went wicketless. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bowled four overs without a wicket.
Play had to be called off 41 minutes before scheduled time due to bad light. In the morning session, Sri Lankan off-spinner Dilruwan Perera and pacer Lahiru Gamage shared two wickets each as India were skittled out for 172 in their first innings. For the hosts, in-form top order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara top-scored with 52 while Wriddhiman Saha contributed 29 as fast bowler Suranga Lakmal returned best figures of 4-26 for the tourists. Resuming at 74/5, Saha (6) and Pujara (47) could manage only a 29-run stand for the sixth wicket before the latter was castled by Gamage (2-59).
Saurashtra Test specialist Pujara completed his 16th half century while Saha then stitched together a 48-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja before the all-rounder was fell lbw off Dilruwan Perera (2-19). Pujara fell to a peach of a delivery from Lahiru Gamage. The right-arm pacer, who failed to get wickets in the first two days, beat Pujara all ends up with an in-cutter that jagged back off the surface and went between the Saurashtra man’s bat and pad to rattle the off-stump. It was a big blow for India. Saha got a reprieve when wicketkeper Niroshan Dickwella missed an easy stumping off Perera when he was batting on 25.
With him was Jadeja, who upped the ante hitting two fours and the first six of the innings before being lbw, a decision which the tourists reviewed after umpire Joel Wilson — standing in place of indisposed Richard Kettleborough — did not rule in favour of Dinesh Chandimal and Co. In the very same over, Saha gave an easy catch to Angelo Mathews trying to paddle sweep Perera. The local boy asked for the review after consulting with Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the other end but to no avail. Bhuvneshwar scored 13 before got out off Lakmal’s bowling while Mohammed Shami’s quickfire 22-ball 24 helped India get past 150-run mark wih Umesh Yadav (6 not out) at the non striker’s end.
Dasun Shanaka (2-36) also took two wickets while veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath bowled only two overs as India were bowled out for 172. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India big hopes when he removed opening batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne (8) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (23) to reduce the visitors to 34/2. Karunaratne left an inswinging Bhuvneshwar delivery which outwitted him and struck the knee-roll. The in-form 29-year-old asked for a review which turned out to be unsuccessful. His opening partner Sadeera Samarawickrama (23) followed suit soon, caught behind to a shortish Bhuvneshwar ball.
Fit-again Mathews (52 off 94; 8×4) and Thirimanne (51 off 94; 8×4) then joined hands to bail Sri Lanka out of trouble. Thrimanne benefitted after being dropped on 27 by Shikhar Dhawan at first slip off Umesh’s bowling, while Sri Lanka were 70/2. With the conditions slightly improved for batting, the pair overcame the Indian bowling and played some good shots. Both scored eight fours each. Both, however, fell prey to Umesh who bowled brilliantly in his second spell which read 7-1-25-2. Thirimanne, who brought up his fifth fifty, edged to skipper Virat Kohli at second slip while Mathews, playing after missing out the Pakistan series due to calf injury, was caught at short cover by Lokesh Rahul.