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Smog clouds Sri Lanka-India Test match

A street cleaner works in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 2017 Reuters

Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers battled through hazardous air pollution levels in Monday’s Test match in New Delhi, facing conditions even worse than those that halted the previous day’s play.

Former and current Sri Lanka captains Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal each scored centuries on day three of the third and final Test against India.

But the hard work by the batsmen was somewhat undone as Indian bowlers struck back to claim six wickets, leaving tourists on 356 for nine and trailing by 180 runs, with India leading the series one-nil.

Smog worsens

Hanging over the match – literally – was a lingering cloud of smog whose levels worsened on Monday, with concentration of harmful particles reaching 18 times the safe level defined by the World Health Organisation.

But play ran uninterrupted.

“It is pretty much the same,” as the previous day, Mathews said of the pollution. “Or a bit worse probably. You have got to deal with what you have.

“It is up to the match referee and umpires to take the decision. We are here to play cricket and we want to get out to the park.”

Indian players did not wear masks on Monday, though they did acknowledge the impediment the smog may have on the visitors.

“Of course it is a matter of concern, but it wasn’t as bad as it was shown out to be, though it might be that we are used to it and have become prone to it,” said Indian paceman Mohammed Shami.

Umpires consult medics

Sri Lanka halted play for about 20 minutes of the second match on Sunday after braving three sessions, during which several players wore masks because the air quality was so bad.

Umpires at one point had to talk to medical staff before deciding to resume the game.

The smog has been the subject of controversy beyond the sport but also within the ranks of its officials.

“Pollution levels in Delhi have hit alarming levels for the second year running and have threatened to disrupt all outdoor activities, leave alone sport,” correspondent Murali Krishnan, who was present at Sunday’s game, told RFI.

“And yet the Indian cricket board scheduled the test against Sri Lanka in the capital for December.

“The cricket board should have learned from two previous occasions, as two first-class matches that had to be abandoned last year because of the acute smog in the capital.”