Predictably, the second Test of the Micromax series meandered into a draw. The match ended at 3.51 p.m. on Friday when both captains agreed to bring a closure to the contest.
Trailing by 65 runs after India, with a massive 707, posted its highest Test total on foreign soil, Sri Lanka was 129 for three in its second innings when the match came to a conclusion here at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara was unbeaten with 42 while Thilan Samaraweera was on 10 when the stumps were removed. Sangakkara was adjudged Man of the Match. Sri Lanka leads 1-0 going into the final Test at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium on August 3.
The largely docile pitch for the Test here has come under much scrutiny. Former Sri Lankan top-order batsman Sidath Wettimuny told The Hindu, “While the pitch at the SSC has always been batsmen-friendly, previously there used to be at least some grass on the wicket. Even that was not there in this match. It led to a one-sided contest where the bowlers had little chance. ”
Wettimuny added, “These pitches are not good for Test cricket. I think a lot of it is because of the television companies. They want the match to last all five days and the curators prepare flat tracks. It is time something is done about this.”
Looking back, he said, “The surfaces were far livelier in my time. There would be bounce and seam movement for the pacemen, turn for the spinners from the third day. The wickets tested the technique of the batsmen and only the good ones survived.”
Wettimuny observed, “Now scoring runs in Tests has become much, much easier. The ICC along with the various boards should address the problem. The crowds will come back to Test cricket if there is a good and an even contest between the bat and the ball. Having said this, the pitch for the third Test at the P. Sara ground should offer more to the bowlers.”
There was not much assistance for the bowlers from a fifth day pitch at the SSC. The spinners were only getting some turn and bounce from the footmarks.
Operating with the new ball, Ishant was a tad short with his length. There was some movement, though, for Abhimanyu Mithun under a cloud cover. The young paceman did take a couple of deliveries away from the left-handed Thanranga Paravitana. The intrepid Tillekaratne Dilshan, who had slashed the pacemen for boundaries, fell attempting to a pull a short-pitched delivery outside the off-stump from Mithun. Ishant pouched the catch at short mid-wicket.
Harbhajan bowled well to the in-form Paranavitana from round the wicket. He, rightly, operated to a fuller length, getting the batsman to drive. The senior off-spinner consumed Paranavitana with a flighted delivery that turned away from the off-stump. The left-handed opener edged an attempted drive to V.V.S. Laxman in the second slip.
The Indians soon had the opportunity to prise out the prolific Mahela Jayawardene. Mahela could not keep a sweep off Harbhajan down and Mithun at a squarish fine-leg reacted late to make a hash of the offering.
Not much not later, Virender Sehwag was fortunate to win a leg-before verdict against Mahela. The Sri Lankan, attempting to work a ball delivered from round the wicket to the on-side, was rapped on the pads. Replays showed the ball was spinning past the leg-stump. Sri Lanka was now 97 for three and the Indians celebrated some unexpected success.
The Indians did try to make something out of the contest. Dhoni set attacking fields and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha turned a few deliveries away from the right-handers.
However, the left-handed Sangakkara held firm. There are different dimensions to his game. The naturally aggressive southpaw batted with soft hands and fine judgment to keep the Indian spinners at bay. And Samaraweera offered him fine support in a pressure situation of sorts.
Earlier, the surface continued to play so well that the last wicket pair of Ishant and Ojha batted for most part of the first session putting on 39 runs and stretching India's lead to 65.
After a rather tentative beginning, the two tail-enders grew in confidence. Ishnat, who attempts to bat with the full face of the willow, cover-drove Ajantha Mendis pleasingly. Ojha was not far behind, off-driving Mendis past the ropes.
Dammika Prasad tested Ohja with a series of short-pitched deliveries but the Indian survived. Finally, Ishant attempted a slash off Dilhara Fernando to be held by Sangakkara at gully. Under the circumstances, a draw was the only result possible in the Test. And no bowler has conceded more runs in a single innings of his Test debut than Suraj Randiv's 222 runs in 73 overs; the off-spinner picked two wickets. The pitch was the hitch.
Scorecard: Sri Lanka (Ist innings) 642 for four declared.
India (Ist innings): M. Vijay lbw b Mendis 58 (124b, 8x4), V. Sehwag st P. Jayawardene b Randiv 99 (101b, 15x4), R. Dravid lbw b Randiv 3 (18b), S. Tendulkar c P. Jayawardene b Dilshan 203 (347b, 23x4, 1x6), V.V.S. Laxman lbw b Mendis 29 (98b, 2x4), S. Raina c Sangakkara b Mendis 120 (228b, 12x4, 2x6), M.S. Dhoni c & b Dilshan 76 (138b, 7x4), Harbhajan c Sangakkara b Dilshan 0 (3b), A. Mithun b Mendis 41 (97b, 4x4), I. Sharma c Sangakkara b Fernando 10 (117b, 1x4), P. Ojha (not out) 18 (92b, 1x4), Extras (b-9, lb-7, w-4, nb-13) 33; Total (all out in 225.2 overs) 707.
Fall of wickets: 1-165 (Sehwag), 2-169 (Vijay), 3-173 (Dravid), 4-241 (Laxman), 5-497 (Raina), 6-592 (Tendulkar), 7-592 (Harbhajan), 8-643 (Dhoni), 9-668 (Mithun).
Sri Lanka bowling: Prasad 22-2-101-0, Fernando 31.2-1-116-1, Mathews 9-1-24-0, Randiv 73-16-222-2, Mendis 63-10-172-4, Dilshan 27-6-56-3.
Sri Lanka (IInd innings): N. Paranawitana c Laxman b Harbhajan 34 (62b, 5x4), T. Dilshan c Ishant b Mithun 14 (21b, 2x4), K. Sangakkara (not out) 42 (114b, 5x4), M. Jayawardene lbw b Sehwag 5 (34b), T. Samaraweera (not out) 10 (46b, 1x4), Extras (b-8, lb-8, nb-8) 24; Total (for three wickets in 45 overs) 129
Fall of wickets: 1-50 (Dilshan), 2-73 (Paranavitana), 3-97 (M. Jayawardene)
India bowling: Mithun 6-1-17-1, Ishant 4-0-31-0, Sehwag 9-1-17-1, Harbhajan 13-0-35-1, Ojha 13-6-13-0.
Keywords: India-Sri Lanka Test Series