Ashwin, Shami lead three-day rout as India complete whitewash
India 487 (Dhawan 119, Pandya 108, Rahul 85, Sandakan 5-132) beat Sri Lanka 135 (Chandimal 48, Kuldeep 4-40) and (f/o) 181 (Dickwella 41, Ashwin 4-68, Shami 3-32) by an innings and 171 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
At 2.46 pm on Monday, when Lahiru Kumara played down the wrong line of an R Ashwin carrom ball, India achieved something they had done only once before. Until then, they had only once won three Tests in an away series, back in 1967-68, when they beat New Zealand 3-1.
Now the scoreline was even more impressive, a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, each Test won with a fearsome victory margin: 304 runs, an innings and 53 runs, and now, inside three days, an innings and 171 runs. Plenty has and will be said about the lack of quality in Sri Lanka's squad, and plenty of that is true, but India's dominance had just as much to do with their growing into a truly formidable side, with all bases covered, even - in this respect differing from previous Indian sides - on the bowling front.
The last day of the series showcased India's attack at its relentless best, in particular Ashwin and Mohammed Shami, who finished with combined second-innings figures of 43.3-12-100-7 to hasten Sri Lanka's defeat.
After a solitary over from Kuldeep Yadav to start the day, Shami and Ashwin bowled in tandem right through the first hour of day three, setting the tone for a day with no respite for Sri Lanka. Ashwin struck in his first over of the day, removing Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka's second-innings specialist. Karunaratne might have been fresh off a hundred in the previous Test, but managed to pick neither the line nor length of the second and third balls he faced from Ashwin.
This was one of those days when the ball just comes out perfectly from Ashwin's hand, when batsmen cannot predict with any sense of certainty where it will land. First up, a big offbreak beat Karunaratne's outside edge by a long way, his front foot planted down the wrong line thanks to the drift into him. Then, stuck on the crease to a quicker one that took off from a length, he was caught at slip off the shoulder of his bat.
At the other end, every ball from Shami looked likely to dismiss the nightwatchman Malinda Pushpakumara, with the TV producers lingering on slow-motion replays of his perfectly upright seam. Having beaten him four times with balls that held their line after angling into the fourth-stump channel, Shami finally found his edge through to Wriddhiman Saha in his fourth over of the day.
Kusal Mendis, the other centurion in Sri Lanka's second-innings resistance at the SSC, was jittery at the crease right from the start, getting himself into tangles in the effort to put the bowlers off their rhythm. Predictably, he tried sweeping Ashwin as often as he could, but this time he wasn't as successful in picking up the offspinner's changes of pace and trajectory. On one occasion, he adjusted to the dip, collapsing his back knee and leaning backwards to manufacture room for a swipe through backward square leg. On another, he had to hurriedly change his shot and play a defensive jab into the leg side instead.
Mendis was stuck at Ashwin's end for the first 16 balls of his innings. Finally, facing Shami, he received a rare bad ball - a short, wide one - that he slapped away to the point boundary. The next ball, though, he paid the price for trying to manufacture a scoring opportunity. Spotting his shuffle across the crease, Shami went wide of the crease and fired one in, full and straight. Rod Tucker gave him out as soon as Shami began appealing, penalising his across-the-line shot as much as anything else, with the line suggesting the ball may have carried on past leg stump. Mendis did not review, and ball-tracking returned an umpire's-call verdict.
Chandimal had been the most assured Sri Lankan batsman in the first innings, especially against pace, and a couple of flowing drives through the off side off Umesh Yadav gave the same impression in the second innings too. He was less certain against Ashwin, though, and in one over had two lbw appeals turned down, the ball beating his sweep both times, with his long front-and-across stretch saving him.
Chandimal and Angelo Mathews saw Sri Lanka through to lunch, and for a further 8.2 overs after the interval, putting on 65 for the fifth wicket in 27.4 overs. Having survived those lbw shouts, Chandimal put away the sweep, and began instead to use his feet to the spinners. He didn't always get to the pitch against Ashwin, and a couple of inside edges flew dangerously close of short leg.
A catch at short leg eventually sent Chandimal back, though off Kuldeep rather than Ashwin, turn and bounce cramping him as he went back to flick. Then Mathews, looking to sweep a full ball off the stumps, missed, and Ashwin had his second wicket. He soon had his third too, Dilruwan Perera slogging him to deep midwicket.
With Sri Lanka seven down, the quicks returned to try and finish things quickly. Lakshan Sandakan top-edged a cut off Shami, and then Niroshan Dickwella, who top scored with a typically punchy 41, fell to a stunning reflex catch from Ajinkya Rahane at gully, when he middled an open-faced slash to his left off Umesh. Shami could have had a fourth, when Vishwa Fernando chipped one straight back at him, but the one-handed effort fell to the floor, leaving Ashwin to return and take the last wicket, swelling his series-topping tally to 17.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo