Chandimal’s century helps Sri Lanka avoid follow-on vs India

Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews watches his shot during the third day of their third test cricket match against India in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI (AP) Dinesh Chandimal withstood air pollution ranging into hazardous levels as he batted through the day Monday to post his 10th test century and help Sri Lanka avoid the follow-on in the third cricket test against India.

The Sri Lanka captain was unbeaten on 147 after guiding his team to stumps at 356-9 at stumps on day three, still trailing by 180 after India declared at 536-7 on day two.

Ravichandran Ashwin took 3-90 for India, which struggled in the field for the first two sessions of the day as Chandimal and Angelo Mathews combined in a 181-run fourth-wicket partnership.

Matthews was caught behind off Ashwin’s bowling for 111 just before tea, and Chandimal moved quickly after the interval to reach his hundred from 265 balls.

He shared a 61-run stand with Sadeera Samarawickrama (33) for the fifth wicket to keep Sri Lanka’s innings moving until three wickets fell for five runs.

First, Samarawickrama was caught behind off Ishant Sharma (2-93). Ashwin then had Roshen Silva (0) caught at forward short leg and, two overs later, he clean bowled Niroshan Dickwella (0) as Sri Lanka were reduced to 322-7.

Chandimal kept his calm though, and in the company of Suranga Lakmal (5) and Lahiru Gamage (1) hauled his team beyond the follow-on target.

Mohammed Shami (2-74) had Lakmal caught behind, with keeper Wriddhiman Saha taking a stunning diving catch, and Ravindra Jadeja (2-85) trapped Gamage lbw before bad light stopped play five overs ahead of schedule.

The light and weather conditions have combined to overshadow the second and third days of the match at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.

Play had to be stopped three times on Sunday while bowlers received medical treatment or players complained to the umpires about the air pollution.

That possibly prompted Virat Kohli to declare India’s innings closed after he was dismissed for 243 on the second day.

Some Sri Lankan players wore face masks during the day, and their coach said players were vomiting after leaving the field.

Sri Lanka resumed Monday at 131-3, when air quality readings in the area were well into the hazardous range. By 2 p.m. local time, the readings had improved and were in the ”very unhealthy” range.

Mathews said the players were usually in favor of playing whenever possible, and trusted match officials to make the call on safety.

”Conditions were almost the same as yesterday. Maybe more,” intense,” Mathews said. ”We want to play cricket and we want to get out on the park. It is up to the officials to make a decision.”

The Indian capital has recently experienced elevated levels of air pollution, and a public health emergency was declared last month.

A lack of wind and cloud cover over Delhi also contributed to the stifling conditions.

India fast bowler Shami said the air pollution hasn’t impeded his team.

”Yes, pollution is an aspect that we seriously need to think about. It could be that we are more used to it and our ability to adjust is much more compared to,” the Sri Lankan team, he said. ”But what was being portrayed, it wasn’t to that extent.”

When air quality readings are in the hazardous range, health authorities recommend people avoid all outdoor exertion.

There have been precedents for proceeding with major sports events in the conditions. Thousands of athletes competed in the Delhi Marathon on Nov. 19 despite the health warnings.

India leads the three-match series 1-0 after winning in Nagpur by an innings and 239 runs.