Dhananjaya, Roshen deny India 2-0
Dhananjaya de Silva and the debutant Roshen Silva were Sri Lanka's fifth-day heroes as they fought their way to a drawn third Test
India 536 for 7 dec (Kohli 243, Vijay 155, Sandakan 4-167) and 246 for 5 dec (Dhawan 67) drew with Sri Lanka 373 (Chandimal 164, Mathews 111, Ashwin 3-90, Ishant 3-98) and 299 for 5 (Dhananjaya 119 retired hurt, Roshen 74*, Jadeja 3-81)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If their two most experienced batsmen led Sri Lanka's first-innings fight, their fifth-day heroes were two newer faces. Dhananjaya de Silva scored his third hundred in only his 11th Test, and Roshen Silva made an unbeaten 74 on debut, their efforts leading Sri Lanka to a fighting draw at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
It was a heartening result, given that Sri Lanka came here right after suffering their worst-ever defeat in the second Test in Nagpur. Neither Dhananjaya nor Roshen played that game, and their displays here may have made fans back home wonder why the former isn't yet a settled member of Sri Lanka's top order and why it took 103 first-class games for the latter to convince the selectors of his ability.
India took only two wickets on the fifth day, of Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, their two first-innings centurions. They never once picked up two wickets back-to-back: Chandimal and Dhananjaya added 112, Dhananjaya and Roshen 58 before the former retired hurt, and Roshen and Niroshan Dickwella an unbroken 94.
It was a reflection of how well Sri Lanka batted, but also of how little help there was for either seam or spin on one of the most benign fifth-day tracks seen in India in recent times.
With five overs left for tea, India were given a small opening when Dhananjaya walked off the field, having struggled through most of the second session with a thigh injury that inhibited his footwork and running between the wickets. They took the second new ball in the last over before tea, and began the final session hoping it would give them some much-craved-for bite and bounce.
But Roshen, whose nimble feet and unhurried manner were reminiscent of Sri Lanka's current batting coach Thilan Samaraweera, was just as assured against India's quicks as he had against their spinners. A Mohammed Shami lifter hit him on the gloves and he inside edged Ishant Sharma into his box, but otherwise he wasn't troubled, as he ignored anything wide of off stump and ducked or swayed to avoid the short ones. India brought back spin, and Roshen immediately brought up his fifty, stepping out and driving Ravindra Jadeja to the cover boundary.
India had a greater chance of dismissing the impulsive Niroshan Dickwella at the other end, and the wicketkeeper-batsman, playing all his shots despite the match situation, gave them one clear-cut chance with the final hour looming. Stepping out of his crease to Jadeja, he missed one that hit the rough outside his off stump but refused to turn. The ball beat Wriddhiman Saha too, and thudded into his chest rather than settle in his gloves.
Dickwella kept playing his shots, which led to a couple of hairy moments - a missed sweep out of the rough off Jadeja, a top-edged sweep off R Ashwin - but nothing resulting in a chance, and the players eventually shook hands with 35 minutes left of the last hour.
Upright and wristy, Dhananjaya looked assured against spin, his game built around the extremes of sitting on the back foot - which was well suited to the slowness of the surface - or dancing down the pitch, and he only rarely took the middle path of stretching forward in defence. Despite the fact that saving the game was Sri Lanka's only realistic aim, he wasn't reluctant to play his shots.
He hit 16 boundaries in all. Some were both safe and eye-catching - such as successive pulls off Ishant Sharma in the first session, or a back-foot punch off Ashwin that moved him to 96 - and others risky but well-controlled - such as his sweeps, both square and fine, off the stumps. But even if he did occasionally get himself in trouble - Ashwin put down a stinging return catch when he was on 110 - the bowlers seldom hurried or wrong-footed him.
There weren't too many balls from the spinners that turned and bounced with any real venom. There were perhaps only two in the morning session, both bowled by Jadeja on his 29th birthday, and on both occasions he overstepped the crease. One transgression went unnoticed, and Mathews departed in the sixth over of the day. Joel Wilson referred the other to the third umpire, who judged what seemed an extremely tight call in the batting team's favour, and reprieved Chandimal in the fourth over before lunch.
Jadeja set Mathews up beautifully. His four previous balls were flat, quick ones on a perfect length, alternating between a roughly middle-and-leg line and an off-stump line. Mathews defended all four off the front foot. The next one was dangled a little slower and wider. Not reading the change in pace, Mathews went too early into his defensive stride, and ended up reaching for the ball, away from his body, and edged to slip.
Chandimal's lucky escape came off a ripper that spun from leg stump, beat his outside edge, and hit middle stump, having drifted in and opened him up completely. That ball apart, Chandimal looked quietly fluent, just as in the first innings, his control percentage of 90 indicative of both his own rhythm and the lack of devil in the pitch.
Eventually, he was dismissed when a spinner beat him in the air. It was a lovely bit of flight from Ashwin in the eighth over after lunch, the ball dipping on Chandimal as he stepped out, stranding him a long way from the pitch of the ball. He reached for it, attempted a desperate leg-side whip, but only succeeded in leaving a big gap for the ball to turn through and peg back off stump.
India were right on top, with five wickets down and more than half of the day still left to play, but if there wasn't too much experience left in Sri Lanka's line-up, there definitely was plenty of quality.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo