NEW DELHI: India won a record ninth Test series in succession after drawing the pollution-tainted third and final Test against Sri Lanka here at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday.
Top-ranked India won the series 1-0 to equal Australia’s record of nine consecutive Test series victories, between 2005-2008.
The first Test between India and Sri Lanka in Kolkata had ended in a draw and the hosts won the second game by an innings and 239 runs.
But Sri Lanka salvaged some pride in the final match thanks to Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva, who defied the odds and held out for a draw.
The Test in Delhi was marred by severe pollution, with fast bowlers from both sides vomiting on Tuesday amid thick smog.
In an unprecedented move, Sri Lankan players wore facemasks while fielding to combat the toxic air, which interrupted play on day two as the visitors protested the choking conditions.
“It was a tough time. The thing is, in Sri Lanka we are not used that, so that’s why we struggled (on) the first two days,” said Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal.
“But after that we needed to continue the game. We told the boys we have to forget about that and we need to play the game.
“Today is a fantastic day. It feels like Sri Lanka,” quipped the captain, referring to the less smoggy weather on Wednesday.
The US embassy website on Wednesday showed concentrations of the smallest and most harmful airborne pollutants hit 234, better than a day earlier but still nearly nine times the World Health Organisation’s safe limit.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has said Delhi could be dropped as a venue during winter when pollution spikes.
Dhananjaya, who retired hurt on 119 due to muscle stiffness, and Roshen (74 not out) held Sri Lanka steady over three sessions of play on the final day, after the visitors were set a huge 410 victory target late on day four.
Roshen was batting alongside Niroshan Dickwella on 44 when the two teams decided to shake hands with just seven mandatory overs left for the day.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja rattled the Sri Lankan top order with three strikes, including Angelo Mathews’ key wicket in the morning session.
But De Silva thwarted a persistent Indian attack with his third Test hundred.
He built crucial partnerships with Chandimal (36) and then with Silva, who had begun his Test career with a duck in the first innings.
Silva also combined with Dickwella in an unbeaten 94-run stand.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli praised the Sri Lankan batsmen for digging their heels in on a wearing pitch.
“Always when you’re not able to finish the game off in the second innings, especially when you had them three down yesterday, feels a bit of a disappointment, but I wouldn’t say it’s a very bad feeling,” he said.
“They [Sri Lankans] played well, firstly, credit to them. They really stuck it out. Their batsmen really applied themselves, showed composure and confidence and didn’t give our bowlers anything throughout the day.”
Kohli was named man-of-the-series for his prolific performances including two double centuries.
INDIA (1st Innings) 536-7 declared (V. Kohli 243, M. Vijay 155; L. Sandakan 4-167)
SRI LANKA (1st Innings) 373 (D. Chandimal 164, A. Mathews 111; I. Sharma 3-98, R. Ashwin 3-90)
INDIA (2nd Innings) 246-5 dec (S. Dhawan 67, R. Sharma 50 not out; S. Lakmal 1-60)
SRI LANKA (2nd Innings, overnight 31-3):
D. Karunaratne c Saha b Jadeja 13
S. Samarawickrama c Rahane b Shami 5
D. de Silva retired hurt 119
S. Lakmal b Jadeja 0
A. Mathews c Rahane b Jadeja 1
D. Chandimal b Ashwin 36
R. Silva not out 74
N. Dickwella not out 44
EXTRAS (B-5, LB-1, NB-1) 7
TOTAL (for five wkts, 103 overs) 299
FALL OF WKTS: 1-14, 2-31, 3-31, 4-35, 5-147, 5-205
DID NOT BAT: D. Perera, L. Gamage, L. Sandakan Bowling: I. Sharma 13-2-32-0, Shami 15-6-50-1, Ashwin 35-3-126-1, Jadeja 38-13-81-3 (nb1), Vijay 1-0-3-0, Kohli 1-0-1-0
RESULT: Match ended in draw.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Virat Kohli
SERIES: India won three-match series 1-0.
MAN-OF-THE-SERIES: Virat Kohli
UMPIRES: Joel Wilson (West Indies), Nigel Llong (England)
TV UMPIRE: Anil Chaudhary (India)
MATCH REFEREE: David Boon (Australia)
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2017