Ashwin, Shami star in India’s historic away series cleansweep

It’s tiring writing the same old story again and again. Sri Lanka have been woeful throughout this three-Test series. After each passing day, one would have thought the only way for Sri Lanka would be up, but somehow they’ve contrived to slide much further, every time.

On Day 3 of the final Test, Sri Lanka brought out their absolute worst as they were bowled out for 181, handing India a mammoth innings and 171-run victory. This was India’s second straight innings victory against the hosts, and they’ve sealed a 3-0 whitewash in an away series for the first time in their Test history. Mohammed Shami was India’s architect on the third day, with some vicious bowling and just rewards. He ended with three for 32. Ravichandran Ashwin was also amongst the wickets, taking four for 68 to cap a memorable display by the visitors.

India had already gotten one foot in the door last evening, when they enforced the follow-on and sent back Upul Tharanga early. If there was any hope of a Sri Lankan defiance in the morning, it was all erased after just one hour. Ashwin got the one Sri Lankan batsman who has been promising to stand firm, Dimuth Karunaratne early, with the ball spitting from a good length and taking the edge on the way to first slip. It was just a matter of time from there on.

Overnight batsman Malinda Pushpakumara was out caught behind to Shami. The fast bowler bowled a brilliant spell in the first hour, constantly keeping the Lankan batsman on their toes with great lines. He was rewarded with one more wicket, with Kusal Mendis falling LBW. Shami ended a vicious spell of seven overs for two wickets and 13 runs to give the Lankans some respite.

That was when Sri Lanka’s strongest defiance materialised. Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, the former and present captain, kept India at bay for the rest of the morning session, abandoning their usual free-flowing, sweep-with-gay-abandon style, and sticking to what Test cricket usually preaches – play the ball on its merit.

After Lunch, however, Sri Lanka resorted to the plans that has had them all in disarray. Both Chandimal and Mathews looked to hit out against Kuldeep Yadav and Ashwin, and soon it resulted in a wicket. Chandimal was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg giving India a wicket after 166 balls. Mathews followed soon after, failing to connect a sweep against Ashwin and falling LBW for 36.

Dilruwan Perera, on whom Sri Lanka had placed much faith as a No. 7 batsman, fell to another sweep, hitting it to Hardik Pandya in the deep as the water rushed in from all sides on a swiftly sinking Sri Lankan ship.

Lakshan Sandakan and Niroshan Dickwella provided the sparse Sri Lankan crowd with some late entertainment courtesy a 28-run stand, but it only served as a delay to the inevitable.

The inevitable came in the 75th over of the innings, with Ashwin getting rid of Lahiru Kumara for 10. The match, played on a pitch that had barely any demons, ended in less than three days.

India would be elated at having wrapped up an away series with such style and efficiency, but for Sri Lanka, their cricket stares at a dark, gloomy road filled with potentially fatal potholes. Hopefully, they find some good drivers.

Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 135 & 181 (Niroshan Dickwella 41; Ravichandran Ashwin 4-68, Mohammed Shami 3-32) lost to India 487 by an innings and 171 runs.

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