The lengths got shorter, the lines lenient as Sri Lanka’s endurance on the field plummeted with time in the face of an Indian batting juggernaut on Day 3 in Nagpur. On an insipid surface, Sri Lanka’s hapless bowling was there for the taking, and Virat Kohli made the most of it with a fifth Test double century – joint-most as captain with Brian Lara. Cheteshwar Pujara couldn’t score a double ton of his own, but Rohit Sharma made a telling impact on return to the side – scoring his third Test century before the hosts declared with a mammoth total of 610 for 6. Sri Lanka’s nightmarish day saw another downward turn when Ishant Sharma dismissed Sadeera Samarawickrama for a duck. Lahiru Thirimanne and Dimuth Karunaratne batted out the remaining seven overs to finish on 21 for 1, trailing India by 384.
Sri Lanka had a woeful start to the day with their recent fielding troubles rearing its head once again. Pujara continued to be solid in his approach but didn’t show much urgency at the start, while Kohli resumed at his free-flowing best against bowlers who just couldn’t mount a challenge and be penetrative. The heat and the flatbed at the VCA stadium further denied Sri Lanka the chance of finding their way out of the quicksand they’d sunk into as Pujara stayed in the middle for 362 balls – or 60.2 overs – for his 143 and became the fastest to 3000-plus Test runs in India (53 innings). Kohli had a milestone of his own as well – becoming the first-ever captain to score 10 international centuries in a calendar year. It was Kohli’s 19th Test century and 12th as captain, and he looked in the mood for a lot more.
A late spark for Sri Lanka came via Dasun Shanaka, whose yorker slipped in from under Pujara’s bat to clatter his stumps and end his hopes of a double century. Dilruwan Perera lapped it up with an early scalp in the second session when Ajinkya Rahane cut a short and wide ball to backward point to depart for just two. But another big partnership ensued, with Rohit Sharma making a fine return to Test cricket.
Rohit started with a pristine cover drive and continued to play more such eye-catching strokes through the day. He took a particular liking for Herath, stepping out at will and going over the top against the spinner frequently. He got a touch tentative before Tea, but finished the session with a half-century – his third successive one. Kohli too cruised through the second session, scoring 47 off the 62 balls he faced in the session and finished it 30 short of a record double ton.
The final session saw dropping Sri Lanka shoulders and more breezy batting early on. Kohli took just 36 deliveries to go from 170 to 200 and switched his limited-overs mode on with adventurous strokeplay. The urge to play more shots brought about Kohli’s dismissal, as the first shot he miscued on the day went to the long on fielder. Soon after, Rohit got to his century and India declared their innings.
After Ishant’s early breakthrough, Virat Kohli brought in Ravichandran Ashwin from the other end in order to rattle the visitors even more. Against the two left-handers – Thirimanne and Karunaratne – Ashwin was a handful, but the two batsmen did enough to stay alive and end the day with nine wickets still intact in Sri Lanka’s account. The climb ahead of them on Day 4, however, promises to be dizzyingly steep.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 205 & 21/1 (Ishant Sharma 1-15) trail India 610/6 (Virat Kohli 170*, Murali Vijay 128, Cheteshwar Pujara 143, Rohit Sharma 51*; Dilruwan Perera 1-157) by 384 runs.