Kaushal Silva's emotional celebration on his third century was one of the highlights on Day 4 © AFP
Kaushal Silva’s emotional celebration on his third century was one of the highlights on Day 4 © AFP

Battling poor form and a horribly split webbing that required six stitches immediately of the ongoing final Test between Sri Lanka and Australia, Kaushal Silva produced an innings that not only showcased his character but also nearly shut the doors of an Australian win at Colombo. For Australia to remain world No. 1, nothing less than a victory is required. Nonetheless, going by the way the tourists have performed in this ongoing tour, even a draw on the final day of the Test will look miraculous. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Sri Lanka vs Australia, 3rd Test at Colombo

For those going through lean patches with the bat, the only way to get back among runs is to show character, grit and application to spend time at the wicket. Once these three conditions are met adequately, a batsman stands great chance to put the worse behind, as spending time in the middle also gets runs, and Silva managed to reap all the benefits of putting in the hard work. COMPLETE UPDATES: Sri Lanka vs Australia, 3rd Test at Colombo

The signs of Silva watching the ball closely were proven early in the first session on the fourth day, when he went against the umpire’s decision and challenged a leg-before decision. His diminutive body frame may have compelled umpire Chris Gaffaney to declare him OUT on a ball that spun sharply into the right-hander, but the replays showed the ball was travelling over the leg-stump. He followed the same throughout the his innings: watch the ball till the very end.

The most interesting part of Silva’s innings was his approach on the fourth day. Starting from Kusal Perera to Dhananjaya de Silva — who stroked his way to 56-ball 44 not out towards the end of the play — almost every Sri Lankan batsmen had the intent to get quick runs.

Perera’s five boundaries in his paltry total of 24 had two of them being hit via top-edges. Whether it was characteristic or not, the situation certainly did not ask the left-hander to go the aggressive way. The same applies for Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews, who too perished on a sweep shot.

Silva punished everything short and wide; his foot work was immaculate and the sweep shots — which claimed a few batsmen — were timed to perfection. In fact, whenever Silva leaned forward to sweep the ball, he connected well. Moreover, he read the bounce as well as the turn well. He, in fact, looked comfortable at the crease.

Silva’s innings highlighted the fact that Sri Lanka are the deserving side to lift the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy 2016. The hosts have continued to churn out splendid bowling performances and their batsmen have taken turns to pile up misery on the Australians, whose bowlers have looked ineffective so far (of course, barring Mitchell Starc).

Registering his only third century in Test cricket certainly carries great significance for someone who made his debut five years ago, having played 29 Tests. Silva touched the magical three-figure mark against Pakistan at Galle more than a year ago; since then, in his last 25 innings, the right-hander fell for single-digit scores as many as 13 times.

Silva managed to cling on to his spot in a side going through a prolonged rebuilding phase, with four half-centuries (with two of them coming back-t0-back in England). Certainly, the scores of 60 and 79 at Chester-le-Street and Lord’s carried greater importance for Sri Lanka than his string of failures. But, to see Silva going through a lean patch at home against Australia would certainly have put questions on his place in the side.

The pressure was entirely on Sri Lanka when the fourth day began at Colombo, with the hosts having a slender lead of 2 runs and 9 wickets in hand. Silva, typically an opener, batting at No. 3 overcame a painful injury and a horrible form, handed Sri Lanka a realistic chance to inflict a whitewash on Australia. The timing of his century could not have been any better.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)