After coming back to win the second Test in Colombo, India, will strive to seal victory in their three-match series against Sri Lanka with the start of the final Test on Friday. Following defeat in Galle, India, stormed to an emphatic 278-run triumph to leave the series level and hand Virat Kohli his first Test victory as captain.
India had gone nine matches without a win, including series defeats in England and Australia, but can now seal what would be their first series triumph since beating the West Indies on home soul nearly two years ago. And Kohli has revealed that a change to a more positive mindset has been crucial in ending the team’s winless streak in the Test format.
"We figured out why we are not able to capitalize on situations, from winning situations and actually winning Test matches," he told The Times of India. "We thought about it, we sat down and figured out that maybe we are thinking of blocking too many balls and making Test cricket too difficult in our own heads and not actually going out there and playing the situation. Even in Test cricket people nowadays are scoring at strike-rates of 70, 75. That's how you win matches."
A key part of Kohli’s strategy, which, as he put it, centers on the idea that "you have to risk losing to win Test matches," has been his determination to play five bowlers. In the second Test that paid dividends, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra starring as Sri Lanka were restricted to 306 in their first innings and just 134 in the second.
India’s bowling also left Kumar Sangakkara unable to make a real impact in his farewell Test. For Sri Lanka, the upcoming match at the Sinhalese Sports Club represents the start of a new era without one of the greatest batsmen in history. In the immediate future, the 15-year Test veteran will be replaced by Upul Tharanga, who took Sangakaara’s place at No.3 in the batting order during the recent 2-1 series defeat in Pakistan. But captain Angelo Mathews has admitted that the order of Sri Lanka’s lineup remains up in the air.
"At the moment we've got so many questions hanging around," he said, reports ESPN. "Tharanga has to come in definitely. In the last match he played, he hit a couple of 45s. He went out only because Sangakkara came back for the India series.
"We are giving the batting order a bit more thought. We've got different characters in the team - some are quite slow, some are very attacking. You've got to slot them out in those positions where the team is benefiting at the end. You need to give it a bit more thought and we'll try and find the best position for those individuals."
India will have to make their own changes to their batting lineup. With Murali Vijay ruled out with a hamstring injury, and Shikhar Dhawan already sidelined, Cheteshwar Pujara will return to the side to open the batting alongside Lokesh Rahul. After a fine start to his Test career, a run of poor form in England and Australia last year led to his demotion from the team. But Pujara and India’s task at the SSC will be a tough one, with Sri Lanka unbeaten on the ground in 11 years and 14 matches.
Third Test schedule: Friday, Aug. 28 – Tuesday, Sept. 1 (each day’s play will begin at 12:30 a.m.EDT)
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