Kumar Sangakkara gets a chance to bow out in style by leading Sri Lanka to a series-clinching victory in the second Test against India starting in Colombo on Thursday.
The prolific left-hander, the leading run-getter among those still playing at the highest level, will bid farewell to international cricket after the match, ending a glorious 15-year career.
With Sri Lanka leading the three-match series after conjuring a brilliant come-from-behind win in the first Test in Galle by 63 runs, the stage is set at the P. Sara Oval for a Sangakkara special.
The 37-year-old will be desperate to end an unusually barren streak at the venue where he has fallen for zero in each of his last three Tests, including a first-ball duck against Pakistan in June.
Sangakkara scored five and 40 against the Indians in Galle, where Sri Lanka snatched a remarkable victory after seemingly heading for a crushing loss.
The hosts had been reduced to 5-95 in their second innings before lunch on the third day, still 98 runs away from avoiding an innings defeat, when Dinesh Chandimal led the recovery with a brilliant 162 off 169 balls.
Chandimal shared valuable partnerships with Lahiru Thirimanne (44) and Jehan Mubarak (49) to lift the hosts to 367 before veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took over.
Herath grabbed seven wickets as Virat Kohli’s men, chasing a modest victory target of 176, were skittled for 112 soon after lunch on the fourth day.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said nothing less than a series win would be a fitting tribute to Sangakkara.
“We will definitely go for the kill,” he said. “Sangakkara deserves the best possible farewell and only a win can do that. There is so much to play for in this Test.”
Indian team director Ravi Shastri said it hurt to lose at Galle after dominating the Test until the third afternoon, but promised to set things right in the next two matches.
“Matches like Galle hurt you more than some others, because you have dominated the Test and still lost it,” the former all-rounder said.
“You learn from this kind of result quicker than any other kind of result. Hopefully you will see it in the next few days.”
The Indians, victims of several contentious umpiring decisions in Galle, paid dearly for the defiant refusal by their powerful cricket board to adopt the Decision Review System (DRS) for bilateral matches.
Both Chandimal and Thirimanne were fortunate to get into double figures, having survived three appeals for catches close to the wicket in a 10-minute period before lunch on the third day.
Replays showed all three catches – two against Chandimal and one against Thirimanne – were clean, but the absence of DRS meant India could not ask for reviews from the television umpire.
Indian captain Virat Kohli was reluctant to speak about those decisions, but said the need for DRS would be discussed after the series.