POSTED AT 04:13 PM 06-12-2017
De Silva century extends Sri Lanka's fight
Dhananjaya de Silva steers the ball deftly on to the off side AFP
Dhananjaya de Silva's third Test hundred kept alive Sri Lanka's hopes of saving the Delhi Test, as India managed only two wickets in the first two sessions of day five. De Silva, however, retired hurt on 119 with only five overs left for tea, having struggled through most of the second session with a thigh injury that had inhibited his footwork and running between the wickets.
At tea, Sri Lanka were 226 for 5, with the debutant Roshen Silva on an impressive 38 and Niroshan Dickwella on 11. The second new ball was just one over old, and India will hope that it will give both their quicks and spinners some bite on what has been a rather benign fifth-day pitch.
Upright and wristy, de Silva looked assured against spin, his game built around the extremes of sitting on the back foot - which was well suited to the slowness of the surface - or dancing down the pitch, and he only rarely took the middle path of stretching forward in defence. Despite the fact that saving the game was Sri Lanka's only realistic aim, he wasn't reluctant to play his shots.
He hit 16 boundaries in all; some were both safe and eye-catching - such as successive pulls off Ishant Sharma in the first session, or a back-foot punch off R Ashwin that moved him to 96 - and others risky but well-controlled - such as his sweeps, both square and fine, off the stumps. But even if he did occasionally get himself in trouble - R Ashwin put down a stinging return catch when he was on 110 - the bowlers seldom hurried or wrong-footed him.
There weren't too many balls from the spinners that turned and bounced with any real venom. There were perhaps only two in the morning session, both bowled by Ravindra Jadeja on his 29th birthday, and on both occasions he overstepped the crease. One transgression went unnoticed, and Angelo Mathews departed in the sixth over of the day. Joel Wilson referred the other to the third umpire, who judged what seemed an extremely tight call in the batting team's favour, and reprieved Dinesh Chandimal in the fourth over before lunch.
Jadeja set Mathews up beautifully. His four previous balls were flat, quick ones on a perfect length, alternating between a roughly middle-and-leg line and an off-stump line. Mathews defended all four off the front foot. The next one was dangled a little slower and wider. Not reading the change in pace, Mathews went too early into his defensive stride, and ended up reaching for the ball, away from his body, and edged to slip.
Chandimal's lucky escape came off a ripper that spun from leg stump, beat his outside edge, and hit middle stump, having drifted in and opened him up completely. That ball apart, Chandimal looked quietly fluent, just as in the first innings, his control percentage of 90 indicative of both his own rhythm and the lack of devil in the pitch.
Eventually, he was dismissed when a spinner beat him in the air. It was a lovely bit of flight from Ashwin in the eighth over after lunch, the ball dipping on Chandimal as he stepped out, stranding him a long way from the pitch of the ball. He reached for it, attempted a desperate leg-side whip, but only succeeded in leaving a big gap for the ball to turn through and peg back off stump.
With half the side dismissed and more than half of the day still left to play, India were right on top, but it didn't take long for Roshen to show them that they still had a task on their hands if they wanted to win this series 2-0. He came into this Test with 103 first-class games behind him, and it showed, his footwork nimble and his shot selection sure. He faced mostly spin before tea, and looked untroubled by it; his next assignment is a potentially testing period against the new ball.
The Report by Karthik Krishnaswamy