India clinched their first Test series victory in Sri Lanka in 22 years after cashing in on debutant Kusal Perera’s rush of blood to turn a match that was hanging in the balance in their favour, pulling off a fighting 117–run victory in the deciding final Test on Tuesday.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s perseverance paid off when Perera (70), engaged in a brilliant fightback with skipper Angelo Mathews, needlessly reverse-swept to give a catch to Rohit Sharma at point. The dismissal ended a 135-run sixth-wicket partnership that had not only raised hopes of Sri Lanka salvaging a draw but even pulling off an improbable victory on the final day.
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India’s only previous series win in Sri Lanka had come in 1993, when they won 1-0. It was India’s first away series triumph since Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team defeated West Indies 1-0 in 2011. It was Sri Lanka’s second successive home series defeat in a row, having lost 1-2 to Pakistan.
Mathews (110) scored his seventh Test century, and second of the series, to lead Sri Lanka’s fightback in one of their strongholds after another top-order collapse. However, the big setback close to tea left India eyeing victory.
Ishant Sharma, India’s standout bowler, trapped Mathews leg before with the third delivery after tea with the second new ball as the visitors were left to take the tail-enders to seal the triumph, which they did six overs after tea.
Ashwin then wrapped it up by removing tail-enders Rangana Herath and Dhammika Prasad in successive overs. His four-wicket haul in the second innings helped the leading wicket-taker of the series finish with 21 scalps.
India, having set Sri Lanka a fourth-innings target of 386, had edged closer to victory on the fifth morning when Umesh Yadav removed Lahiru Thirimanne for 12, reducing the innings to 74 for four. With the Sinhalese Sports Club ground pitch that had helped seamers on the first four days having eased out, it was hard work from then on for the Indian bowlers as Mathews and Perera accumulated runs.
Perera struck his second half-century on debut. The 25-year-old left-hander, nicknamed the new Sanath Jayasuriya for his powerful hits, mixed caution and aggression to even raise prospects of leading Sri Lanka to an upset win as they edged to within 144 runs of the target with just over a session to play.
But his dismissal suddenly brought India back to life. Perera was distraught after his dismissal, and seemed to be angered by something said by the Indian fielders before Ashwin persuaded him to leave. Ishant, Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal and Prasad have been charged by the International Cricket Council match referee for breaching the Code of Conduct in their clash on Monday.