For all the cricket that India and Sri Lanka have played over the past two decades, only twice have they entered the last Test of a series with the score even. That was in 2001 and 2008, both series on Sri Lankan soil, which ended with the hosts winning by 2-1 margins after respective victories in the deciding Tests. Both times, touring Indian teams came back from defeat with famous victories, only to swiftly run out of the collective juice needed to go the distance and close out series. For the third series out of four between the two teams in Sri Lanka, it comes down to the third and final Test – the first for the home team in the era post Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who retired after the second Test.
Rejuvenated by their 278-run win at the P Sara Oval – their fourth highest in terms of runs – Virat Kohli’s team will be hoping to achieve India’s first Test series win in nearly two years, and first away from home in more than four, when the third and final match against Sri Lanka gets underway at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) on Friday.
India last won a Test series overseas in 2011, when a depleted team succeeded 1-0 in the West Indies, and their last series victory came when West Indies toured in November 2013. Since then, they have lost in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia and drew a one-off Test in Bangladesh. For a captain eager to prove that aggression is the way to go about winning Test matches, and one apparently ready to tinker with team compositions, the deciding Test could not come any sooner. Kohli has tasted victory as captain in his fifth Test in charge, and now must ensure that the good vibrations last a while longer.
India: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Cheteshwar Pujara, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Naman Ojha (wk), 7 Stuart Binny, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav.
Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kaushal Silva, 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 7 Jehan Mubarak/Kaushal Silva, 8 Dhammika Prasad, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Tharindu Kaushal, 11 Vishwa Fernando/Dushmantha Chameera.