Mask-wearing Sri Lankan players halt proceedings thrice

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New Delhi: Skipper Virat Kohli’s magnificent 243 was overshadowed by unprecedented scenes of mask-wearing Sri Lankan players, who halted proceedings thrice, complaining of poor air quality, on day two of the third Test, here.

The unrelenting Lankans forced India to declare their first innings at 536 for seven as drama unfolded in the post- lunch session during which play was halted for 26 minutes due to pollution concerns.

However, the visiting batsmen had no complaints about air quality when they came out to bat after India’s declaration.

A fired-up Indian attack reduced them to 131 for three at stumps and they are still trailing by a massive 406-run margin.

It could have been worse had Kohli not dropped Angelo Mathews regulation catch at second slip off Ishant Sharma.

Ishant (1/44), Mohammed Shami (1/30) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/24) shared the spoils as the visiting batsmen continued to struggle in negotiating the Indian attack.

Mathews (57 batting) and Chandimal (25 batting) added 56 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket stand.

It appeared to be another day of dominance for the Indian team with their skipper breaking many a records but the antics by the visitors spoiled Kohli’s party.

With their below-par bowling being sent on a leatherhunt, Sri Lankan team seemed to disturb the rhythm of the Indian batsmen by halting the play which was evidently not appreciated by the hosts.

It is not the first time that an Indian team had to declare their innings due to compulsion though 40 years back, circumstances were vastly different.

Before the unfolding of the drama, it was a walk in the park for Kohli, who scored his sixth double hundred and became the first captain to score six Test double tons, eclipsing West Indies legend Brian Lara, who had five.

It was also Kohli’s individual highest score, surpassing the previous best of 235 against England last year in Mumbai.

He also equalled Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag for maximum number of double hundreds. He played 287 balls and hit 25 boundaries before losing concentration due to constant stoppages as chinaman Lakshan Sandakan trapped him.

It was in the 123rd over, their fast bowler Lahiru Gamage suddenly stopped in his bowling stride before the fourth delivery.

Suddenly skipper Dinesh Chandimal was seen discussing animatedly with the on-field umpires as play was halted for 17 minutes. It disturbed Ravichandran Ashwin s concentration as he was immediately dismissed by Gamage, who also left the field in the 125th over without completing the proceedings.

Suranga Lakmal completed his over but within a few minutes also left complaining uneasiness. The constant breaks affected Kohli s concentration and he was trapped leg before.

While Kohli wanted play to continue, Sri Lanka manager Asanka Gurusinha informed the umpires that his fielders did not want to continue, prompting the home skipper to declare.

This was after Indian coach Ravi Shastri had also come out to intimate to the umpires about what he felt was right.

The Lankans who didn’t want to field however came out to bat and Dimuth Karunaratne edged the very first delivery off Mohammed Shami to Wriddhiman Saha.

Dhananjaya de Silva was then trapped by Ishant to make it 14 for 2 before umpires called for tea.

Earlier, Rohit Sharma (65) and Kohli added 135 runs for the fifth wicket in the first session as Sri Lanka never looked like getting any wickets before Sandakan induced a bottom edge off Rohit at the stroke of lunch.

Rohit, who made a comeback to playing in a Test match in Nagpur, now has five consecutive scores of over 50 plus in his last five matches in the longest format.