Thirimanna, Mathews fifties propel Sri Lankan dominance

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Vice-captain Lahiru Thirimanna and former skipper Angelo Mathews struck fighting half-centuries to put Sri Lanka – seven runs from taking the first-innings lead against India on day three of the first Test at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

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Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews (L) and Lahiru Thirimanne run between the wickets during the third day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium, courtsey AFP

A solid 99-run third wicket stand between Thirimanna and Mathews was the main highlight in Sri Lankan batting reply as they reached 165 for 4 before bad light brought a premature end to the day’s play. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal and wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella were unbeaten at stumps on 13 and 14 respectively.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s impressive control of pace, movement and line got him the scalps of both openers in Dimuth Karunaratne and Sadeera Samarawickrama as the visitors were struggling at 34 for 2.

Samarawickrama looked sumptuous during his knock of 23 off 22 balls but was unable to resist poking one through to the wicket-keeper while Karunaratne left an inswinging delivery and was adjudged LBW.

India will rue Shikhar Dhawan dropping a straightforward chance at first slip in the 18th over, giving Thirimanna a reprieve on 27, with Umesh Yadav the unfortunate bowler.

That chance apart, Thirimanna and Mathews looked in control, cutting, driving and flicking which ultimately shut the door on any Indian resurgence with the ball. Both fell to the bowling of Yadav, right after reaching their personal milestones.

The left-hander was left squared up, nicking it to Kohli who completed a good, low catch at second slip. Just 15 balls later, Mathews was pushed an innocuous length ball to KL Rahul at cover.

“It was challenging. Once in a while, we got balls were unplayable. We expect the same tomorrow. Overall, we batted well. I and Mathews talked that we need to score runs once we’re comfortable. We couldn’t convert it into a big score … Angelo and myself should have batted more responsibly. “ Thirimanna said after play.

Earlier in the first session, the hosts were bowled out for just 172 by the disciplined Lankan bowling unit even though the Indian tail wagged with vital contributions from Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami who all made 20s.

Cheteshwar Pujara after being 47 overnight got to his half-century, but fell for 52 when he was castled by a sharply incoming delivery from Lahiru Gamage.

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Off-spinner Dilruwan Perera dismissed Jadeja who was struck on the pad in front of the stumps and Saha got one of the thinnest of edges while trying to sweep, and the ball then striking his arm to lob up for a catch.

Fast bowler Suranga Lakmal finished with figures of 4-26 after taking three wickets on day one to justify the visitors’ decision to field first.