Test of reckoning: India seek to end 22-year wait in Sri Lanka

  • N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times, Colombo
  • Updated: Aug 28, 2015 09:06 IST

Team India skipper Virat Kohli will look to end the team's 22-year wait for a series win in Sri Lanka when the third and final Test match begins at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground in Colombo on Friday.

India have emerged victorious only once in a series in Sri Lanka, and a win in the third Test would mark the first time they have won two Tests in a series in the island nation.

India's only series triumph in Sri Lanka came in 1993 when the visitors won 1-0 with two matches drawn.

India have only twice before come from behind to win a Test series, both at home.

They defeated England 2-1 in a five-match series in 1972-73, losing the first game before winning the next two with the last two drawn.

In 2001, they upstaged favourites Australia after losing the first game of a three-match series to claim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-1.

Turning point

The match will be a massive contest between India's off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Sri Lanka's ageing left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. Ashwin has captured 17 wickets so far in the series, bettering Harbhajan Singh's record for a series in Sri Lanka -- 16 scalps.

When Sri Lanka played at the SSC the last time, in August 2014 against Pakistan, Herath took 14 wickets, including nine in an innings, to give a perfect send-off to retiring Mahela Jayawardene.

Herath's seven-wicket haul in Galle dashed Indian hopes of victory as they chased a modest fourth-innings target of 176, eventually losing by 63 runs.

However, Ashwin has been the more consistent of the two, following his 10-wicket haul in Galle by taking seven at the P Sara Oval, where India recorded their biggest victory margin in terms of runs against Sri Lanka - 278.

India are set to make two changes.

Madhya Pradesh wicketkeeper Naman Ojha will make his Test debut at the age of 32 after Wriddhiman Saha had to return home due to a hamstring injury. The absence of injured openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan provides a chance for Cheteshwar Pujara, who returns as opener. Pujara was dropped after the third Test in Melbourne following a string of poor scores overseas, across New Zealand, England and Australia.

Fresh start

Sri Lanka will begin the post-Kumar Sangakkara era in earnest.

The record-breaking batsman's departure will further weaken them, and they will be under pressure not to lose a second home series in a row after the 1-2 reverse against Pakistan.

Their batting travails against India's spin duo Ashwin and Amit Mishra and the disciplined pace attack led by Ishant Sharma could see a shuffle in the order. The struggling Jehan Mubarak could be dropped and left-handed top-order batsman Upul Tharanga recalled.

Sri Lanka have an enviable record at the venue, having won 18 out of 38 matches, losing only six with the rest drawn. They hold a 2-1 win-loss record at the venue against India, the visitors having won here during their successful 1993 campaign.


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