Sa’adi Thawfeeq reporting from Galle
GALLE: Sri Lanka captured six wickets on the fourth morning to have India struggling to save the first Test at the Galle International Stadium in what has turned out to be a complete turnaround of fortune.
Sri Lanka who at one time were facing defeat at lunch on the third day at 95-5, were now on the brink of pulling off an extraordinary win at lunch on the fourth day.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath struck with his first ball of the day to set the trend for the rest of the session as India chasing 176 for victory collapsed to be 78 for seven at lunch. They required a further 98 runs with three wickets in hand.
Herath got rid of nightwatchman Ishant Sharma trapping him lbw for 10 and then went onto pick up the wickets of Rohit Sharma (4), Wriddhiman Saha (2) and Harbhajan Singh (1) to have figures of five for 37 at the lunch break – his 22nd five-for in his career.
He bowled unchanged in the morning taking 4 for 24 off 11 overs.
It was a fine comeback for Herath who was out form against Pakistan and was eventually dropped from the third Test.
Off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal proved an ideal foil to Herath picking up two big wickets that of Indian captain Virat Kohli for 3 and Shikhar Dhawan for 28.
Ajinkya Rahane (18) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3) were at the wickets at the break.
India’s approach towards the target was rather surprising when play resumed on the fourth day. They went on the defensive from the first ball and their cautiousness allowed Sri Lanka to put in close fielders and apply the pressure.
None of the Indian batsmen tried to take on the Lankan bowling and score runs.
Dhawan batting with an injured hand was handicapped to a great extent and took 52 minutes and 36 balls before he added to his overnight score of 13. He was eventually dismissed for 28 after nearly two hours at the wicket when Kaushal held onto a brilliant return catch diving to his left.
Although Sri Lanka began on a low note when Lahiru Thirimanne dropped an edge offered by Ishanth Sharma off the second over of the day, the Lankan fielding was outstanding with Kaushal Silva excelling at forward short leg with two super catches.
Scores: Sri Lanka 183 and 367;
India 375 and 23-1 contd 78-7 at lunch (Sikhar Dhawan 28, Ajinkya Rahane 18 n.o., Rangana Herath 5/37, Tharindu Kaushal 2/24)