Kumar Sangakkara was the man who could have brought Sri Lanka back into the contest against India on Day Three of the first Test at Galle, but things were a lot tougher for the hosts who seem to be struggling in both departments of the game. The struggle was reminiscent of the way Sangakkara batted in the Test. Nikhil Popat relives Sangakkara’s last battle at Galle.

For the umpteenth time in his Test career, Kumar Sangakkara was bestowed with the responsibility of carrying his team through to safety, and Sangakkara gave his all once again. Galle has been a happy hunting ground for Sri Lanka for many years; tourists find the conditions difficult — they stumble almost every single time.

In 25 Tests at this venue, Sri Lanka have won 13, lost only six, their second best venue after Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), Colombo, where they have won 18 out of the 38 games with 14 draws. The Galle pitch in the past has deteriorated quickly very often, and Sri Lanka have struggled on pitches that have assisted spin more than expected. The last time the hosts lost at Galle by an innings was way back in 2000 when Pakistan beat them black and blue.

It has also been one of the prolific grounds for Sangakkara; he has scored 1,876 runs before this Test at an average of 53.60 with 15 scores in excess of 50. Sangakkara was not quite in form in the Tests against Pakistan and with just one Test to finish his career, he would have backed himself to come good against one of his favourite opponents, India.

He did not start well in the first innings and was out early in the piece to Ravichandran Ashwin, toe-ending a punch to Rahul at silly point. It was unlike him. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 183, India piled on 351 and when Sangakkara came out to bat the second time, they were already two down for one with a trail of 188 runs staring them in the face. He survived the tricky short period on the second day and would have wished to get going on third day. Read: Ravichandran Ashwin becomes 2nd Indian after Harbhajan Singh to take 10-wicket haul in Sri Lanka

His first scoring shot on Day Three was a streaky boundary to third man where he pushed at one with hard hands but found the gap. He did not look in much control as he miscued a short one just wide of the fielder at mid-wicket in the very same over, Sangakkara was in no position to pull that one. The usual Sangakkara defence was missing, there were hurried dabs, keeping the ball out was the first aim rather than blocking it confidently. Survival mattered more than being himself at this point of time for Sangakkara.

His first test was always going to come against Ashwin, who had been the best bowler for India so far. The first spell from Ashwin was not quite as threatening as expected and Sangakkara was intent on playing percentage shots to see him off at first. But those drives were still off the inside half of the bat and not off the middle. Sri Lanka though had seen the first hour through and things were starting to look brighter. Read: Angelo Mathews continues to fight the lone battle for Sri Lanka

The sun began to shine and so was Sangakkara, who was now starting to look good. He reaffirmed that fact when Sangakkara latched onto a shorter one which was cut to the point fence in a flash. The defence started to sound better, bat reaching the ball a lot more assuredly. He was beaten by one that spun past his back foot defence but he was smiling, knowing he did not pick it but the very next ball, he was to the pitch of the ball, turning around for a single. It is an art, to bat in the present, learning from the past but not getting stuck by a ball that beat you but looking forward to batting better to the next one.

The quick singles were being taken as Sangakkara went from being 15 in 33 balls to 40 in 67 balls. He had a moment of scare when he was beaten trying to force one going deep inside his crease. The players appealed but the umpire was not interested. The next ball Sangakkara was looking to get off strike, he drove it nicely to covers but the fielder dived and saved the run. Sangakkara was now himself; looking for runs. Ashwin floated the next one but was a touch shorter, Sangakkara wanted to punch but he spotted the turn a tad late and hence half played at it.  The result was an edge which was superbly snaffled by Ajinkya Rahane at first slip diving to his left. Forty runs in 70 balls and that was the last time Sangakkara played at Galle, all the battle, in the grind, it was done and dusted. Read: VIDEO: Ajinkya Rahane takes superb catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara for final time at Galle

Sangakkara went off the field amidst a warm applause from the crowd; he raised his bat to them, acknowledged their support. The innings had everything, the early struggle to get among the runs, the battle and glimpses of Sangakkara, the batsman who was in prime form for a long time, serving the nation. He came out with his team in trouble, shone for some time but he knew his time was over. Sri Lanka are going to miss him more in their cricket than in this particular Test.

(Nikhil Popat is a diehard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)