x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Sangakkara stalls India's charge

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara frustrated India with a superb century even as the hosts moved in within four wickets of a series sweep that will see them as world No 1.

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara frustrated India with a superb century to keep his side's slim hopes of saving the third Test going into the final day tomorrow. Sangakkara hit an undefeated 133, his century coming late in the final session yesterday after Sri Lanka had slipped to 208 for six. Nuwan Kulasekara, who contributed nine in a 66-run partnership for the seventh wicket, was also unbeaten as the visitors ended the day on 274 for six, still needing 59 to pull level with India's first-innings total of 726 for nine declared. Sri Lanka realistically need to bat for two sessions today if they are to save the match, which would not be enough to prevent them losing the Test series 1-0 but would deny India the victory they require to go on top of the ICC Test rankings. The tourists started yesterday at 11 without loss in their second innings but got off to a poor start as Tillakaratne Dilshan was harshly adjudged out lbw after playing no shot to a Harbhajan Singh delivery.

Tharanga Paranavitana was joined by Sangakkara and the pair batted patiently to help Sri Lanka regroup, before Shanthakumaran Sreesanth had the opener out lbw for 53. The wicket triggered a collapse as Sri Lanka's middle order caved in for the third time in two matches. Mahela Jayawardene (12) pushed forward to a delivery from Zaheer Khan and feathered an edge to MS Dhoni, while Thilan Samaraweera departed for a duck when he edged to VVS Laxman at second slip. A busy afternoon session ended with the wicket of Angelo Mathews, the all-rounder flicking the ball with his glove to present Dhoni with his 100th catch in Test cricket. Sangakkara had by then reached his half-century as he continued to wage a lone battle. Prasanna Jayawardene, the last recognised batsman, lent assistance to Sangakkara for an hour in the final session, the pair putting on 64 for the sixth wicket. That stand was broken by Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner trapping Jayawardene in front for 32. Sangakkara batted on and after crawling through the 90s and eventually reached his 21st century with a boundary off Zaheer.

Gary Kirsten, the India coach, said he had targeted the top spot since he replaced Greg Chappell. Although he toured Australia with India from December 2007 he did not become coach until March 2008. "It is certainly something we aspired to, we wanted to become the best Test team in the world," he said. "That will be a great achievement for this team." India are third behind South Africa and Sri Lanka in the rankings but close enough to leapfrog both if they win the series 2-0. India have recorded series victories over Australia, England and New Zealand and drawn with South Africa during Kirsten's reign. "A lot of credit goes to the players in this team," he said. "They have all stood up to be counted, we have a very powerful top-seven batting line-up and the bowlers have done the job." Kirsten said his players tired in the final session yesterday, but he was happy with the position his team are in. "When you have a world-class batsman like Kumar Sangakkara around they don't give it away too easily," he said. "We thought if we can get six wickets we'd be happy. The second session was a big one for us with four wickets and the third session wasn't good enough as the guys were a little tired." * With agencies

Sri Lanka (first innings): 393 India (first innings): 726/9 declared Sri Lanka (second innings, overnight 11 for no loss): Tharanga Paranavitana lbw b Sreesanth 54 Tillekaratne Dilshan lbw b Harbhajan Singh 16 Kumar Sangakkara batting 133 Mahela Jayawardene c Dhoni b Khan 12 Thilan Samaraweera c Laxman b Khan 0 Angelo Mathews c Dhoni b Ojha 5 Prasanna Jayawardene lbw b Ojha 32 Nuwan Kulasekara not out 9 Extras:(b-8, lb-1, w-1, nb-3) 13 Total: (For six wickets in 93 overs) 274 Bowling: Harbhajan Singh 31-5-70-1 Pragyan Ojha 23-4-84-2 Zaheer Khan 17-4-51-2 S Sreesanth 13-4-36-1 Virender Sehwag 9-2-24-0