Prior to the start of play on Day 4, Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella said that their batsmen are ready to bat out two days, a daunting task considering how they’d lost 7/75 in Kolkata and 6/56 in the first innings at Nagpur. An hour into Day 4 and Dickwella, who bats at 6, found himself out in the middle after his side had lost three for 34, indicating another slide.
To make matters worse, Dickwella had to eat his words when he became the fourth Sri Lankan wicket to fall this morning and fifth overall, followed by the next five for 91 runs. All four Indian bowlers feasted on them, with R Ashwin leading the charge with 4/63 and in the process picking up his 300th Test wicket – the quickest to that mark. Sri Lanka was sent packing for 166, giving India victory by an innings and 239 runs – equalling their biggest win in terms of runs. Skipper Dinesh Chandimal showed some resistance with 61, but for the most part, he was subjected to watch the demolition from the other end as India went 1-0 up.
Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav picked up from where they’d left off in the first innings. About 10 overs into the day the ball started to reverse and Ishant landed it in perfect areas, hardly allowing any respite for the batsmen outside off. Ishant was impressive, constantly pitching on a good length outside off troubling both left-handers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne. He made the ball move, and Ashwin, bowling the first over of the day was getting some serious turn.
With that in mind, Kohli replaced Ashwin by Jadeja and in the first over itself, Murali Vijay hung on to a sharp catch at forwarding short-leg to send back Karunaratne (18). It was a soft dismissal, but the only one in that session that wasn’t gifted.
Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews played two weird shots under the circumstances. The left-hander went after a full ball from Umesh outside off and it flew off his bat straight into the hands of Jadeja at a point. Five overs later, with India attacking in the field – they had a short midwicket and two slips – Mathews carelessly tried to loft Jadeja and failed to clear Rohit Sharma at mid-off. A fire-breathing Ishant picked up his second when Dickwella edged to Kohli at second slip, who juggled but held on to it on the second attempt.
At 75/5, Dasun Shanaka thought of having some fun. He went after Ashwin in the 32nd over and took him for a four and two sixes but ran out of luck when he holed out in the deep. Amid the implosion, Chandimal went about his innings rather fluently, the only positive in an otherwise abysmal batting display by Sri Lanka. A part of his approach was helped by his team-mates’ poor shot selection but Chandimal showed the application that was missing by playing the ball on its merit and using the swift movement of his feet. He brought up his fifty just before the extended first session was about to come to a close.
Ashwin returned to snuff out Dilruwan Perera and Rangana Herath in three balls before Lakmal began slogging everything under the nose. The effect of that could be gauged by the fact his and Chandimal’s 50-run stand was up in just 49 balls. Ishant had a chance to close out the innings when Lakmal’s leading edge came back to him but the bowler was unable to hold on to it. The frustrating stand was broken by Umesh who sent back Chandimal, and Ashwin ended Sri Lanka’s misery by cleaning up Lakmal for his 300th.