I know, I’ll be labeled a betrayer for saying this, but, once the match looked a bit hopeless, I was secretly praying that Sri Lanka would lose so that there would be something to play for in the last match, as I plan to go watch it at the stadium (here in Colombo)!
Leaving that aside, this was yet another great test which just showcased why Test Cricket can be so rewarding for those who have the patience to watch it! The first day was fab, in that Sehwag launched an onslaught on the Sri Lankan bowlers, which ensured that India had 151 runs on the board by lunch. Persistent rain during the second session denied any play, and the third session saw a revival by the Lankan bowlers, led by Chaminda Vaas, who looked extremely listless during the first session. He got the ball to swing, and, along with Mendis, snared 2 batsmen each to leave the match evenly poised @ 214/4.
Come the second day, Laxman and Sehwag added another 64 before Laxman got out to Mendis’ carrom ball. 51 runs later, Sehwag was the man standing on the burning deck as India folded to 329, Sehwag having made an awesome unbeaten 201 off just 231 balls.
Although SL lost Vandort early to Zak, Warnapura and Sangakkara threatned to take the game away from the Indians with 130 in 34.2 overs, before Harbhajan Singh (who looked off-colour till then) snapped 4 quick wickets to leave the Lankans in a very precarious state @ 215/5, the skipper and his namesake the batsmen at the crease.
The 3rd day saw a good reguard action from Mahela, who shielded the tail – enders for the larger part of the day, and tried his very best, but Harbhajan chipped in with another 2 wickets, while the Indian skipper opened his account for the series with 3 wickets as they blew off Sri Lanka for 292, getting a lead of 35.
The 3rd innings of the match saw India get off to yet another rollicking start, Sehwag cracking a 52 – ball 50 as they looked well on course to post a huge total for SL to chase before the old foxes, Murali and Vaas, knocked over Tendulkar and Dravid in quick succession to, once again, leave it somewhat even – Stevens at the end of the 3rd day (200/4).
Today’s play saw India’s last 5 wickets fall for just 17 runs as they folded for just 269, giving SL a target of 307 to chase in about 125 overs. Mendis got his maiden ten wicket haul. However, it should be noted that Galle isn’t the best pitch to bat on in the last innings, and Zak & Ishant gave the Lankans a lot to ponder about during the lunch break by knocking over Vandort, Malinda and Mahela with just 10 runs on the board.
Though Dilshan and Samaraweera looked like they could possibly take Sri Lanka to safety, it was going to be very difficult, and it proved so, as the lower order folded for not much after the Dilshan went after a brisk 37 from 49.
Harbhajan ended up with 10 wickets. All credit to him, as he would’ve been in the shooting line after some not-so inspirational performances against Australia, and against SL in the first test. He came back hard, but the form of Kumble still remains a worry, as he seems only capable of troubling the tailenders, and it must be worrying for the management.
Sehwag got the man-of-the-match award for his brave double – ton. When asked by Arun Lal as to whether he felt any pressure coming into the match, he said that he had the backing of the captain and the coach, and had no pressure as such, and that enabled him to play so freely.
Ajantha Mendis also deserves a mention, having taken his maiden 10 wicket haul in just his 3rd match. He’s really a talent for the future, and the fact that he still got most of his wickets with the carrom ball shows that the Indian batsmen are indeed finding it difficult to read him at all!
Overalledly, an awesome match, and makes me want to go for all 5 (rather 4) days of the next match, but classes will restrict me! 😦