Test matches (3): Sri Lanka 1, India 2
The first Test series between these teams for five years - either side of 24 one-day internationals - found both in a state of renewal. Virat Kohli could finally get his teeth into a full assignment as Test captain, having previously led India on one-off occasions at Adelaide, Sydney and Fatullah. And the future unde rKohli looked compelling: after being tripped up in an epic opening match at Galle, India pulled off a pair of wins in Colombo to claim their first Test series victory in Sri Lanka since 1993-94, and their first overseas since 2011, in the West Indies.
They also became the first Indian side to win an away series having fallen 1-0 behind. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, had to go through the process of bidding farewell to the most successful batsman in their history, when Kumar Sangakkara retired from international cricket after the Second Test. He went into the series with a phenomenal home record, and motivated by the possibility of equalling Don Bradman's 12 Test double-centuries.
But Sangakkara was flummoxed by Ravichandran Ashwin, unsure whether to come forward or go back to his stock off-break, and was dismissed by him in all four innings for a total of 95. As part of the deal struck with Sri Lanka Cricket, he missed the last match in order to help Surrey for the rest of the English season, and finished a Test series without a half-century for only the third time in almost a decade.
Politically, the series was something of a sop from the BCCI to old boardroom allies. The previous October, an internal pay dispute had prompted West Indies to abandon their tour of India, with a one-day international, a Twenty20 and three Tests left to play; Sri Lanka swiftly stepped in, sending their players over for five fill-in ODIs. In return, the BCCI agreed to switch the venue for these three Tests from India to Sri Lanka, ensuring SLC some much-needed revenue.However, the matches attracted less than expected. Where series involving India had previously earned nearly $2m a Test, Sony now bought the rights for all three matches for just $3.25m, after a bid of $1.4m from Ten Sports, SLC's long-standing broadcast partners, was turned down.
The First Test was brought forward to avoid a clash with the country's general elections, and the Third moved to Colombo from Pallekele, which was deemed vulnerable to August rain.The cricket itself wasn't always of the highest order, but there was no disputing the stronger side. India were beset by injuries - Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and Wriddhaman Saha all returned home - yet overcame the odds under Kohli, for whom aggression is the default state. India rejigged their top order throughout, picking a different opening combination in each Test, yet five batsmen struck a century Kohli's declared faith in a five-man attack also paid off with the full 60 wickets.
Ashwin led the way with 21 at 18, complemented by 15 at 15 from leg-spinner Amit Mishra on his return to Test cricket after four years. Ishant Sharma took eight on a helpful surface in the decisive match at the Sinhalese Sports Club. Sri Lanka were badly let down by their batting. Too often Angelo Mathews waged a solitary battle, making both his hundreds in losing causes. All but 67 of Dinesh Chandimal's tally of 288 came at Galle, where his magical unbeaten 162 in the second innings helped Sri Lanka turn a 192-run deficit into a 63-run victory. Dammika Prasad bowled tirelessly and ferociously, but India worked out a way to keep Rangana Herath at bay - at least after the First Test, when he took a phenomenal seven for 48 to crush their hopes of chasing 176.
India-Sri Lanka encounters had often been characterised by bonhomie, but there was little love lost this time. Sharma, eager to have a word with batsmen he had just dismissed, was slapped with a one-Test ban for three breaches of the ICC Code of Conduct; Chandimal was suspended for a one-day international after making physical contact with him in the Third Test; and several others were fined. The absence of the DRS played its part in tempers fraying, and the unrelenting schedule cannot have helped.
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