Under bright sunshine and at Green Park that was a blaze of colour, India registered its hundredth Test win here on Friday. India outplayed Sri Lanka by an innings and 144 runs in the second Test to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Debutant left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha held a return catch – a leading edge from Chanaka Welegedara – to signal the end of the Test. Following on, Sri Lanka was dismissed for 269 in its second innings shortly after the first hour following lunch on day four.
This is India's biggest victory – in terms of runs - over Sri Lanka in Tests. For Sri Lanka, Thilan Samaraweera remained unbeaten on a 78 (123b, 11x4) of much grace, flow and character. The surface did not disintegrate and there was no alarming turn or bounce for the spinners on a sluggish pitch.
Paceman S. Sreesanth was adjudged Man of the Match. His first innings burst opened up the Test.
An Indian victory in the third Test will propel the side to the No.1 spot in ICC Test ratings. However, in-form opener Gautam Gambhir will not be available for the match – beginning on December 2 - since the dates clash with his sister's wedding. The Indian squad has been reduced to 14 with no changes.
India struck early on day four here. Zaheer Khan prised out Angelo Mathews in a dramatic over of three successive boundaries, a mean short-pitched delivery followed by a stare and a fatal miscued pull that was splendidly held by Dravid running and diving in from gully.
The left-arm paceman bent his back to extract some lift out of the slow surface but ran into no-balling problems and tended to stray down leg side. Perhaps, he was trying too hard.
After the high of Thursday, Sreesanth has a rather ordinary Friday. He was not precise with his line and provided the batsmen width.
Although Harbhajan could not achieve the ideal level of consistency, he operated well in phases.
In the morning, he rightly bowled around ten inches from the right-hander's off-stump and spun the ball in from wide off the crease. He found a lovely arc for his off-spinners and moved a touch closer to the stumps for the one that straightens.
Harbhajan is not a great believer is the virtues of pivoting before release but does impart serious revolution on the ball with his dexterous wrist and supple fingers.
Spin bowling is a lot about subtle shifts in angles and Harbhajan cleaned-up a well-set Prasanna Jayawardene (29) by going round-the-wicket. The right-hander was foxed by a delivery that pitched around off-stump and straightened.
The experienced off-spinner could bring his variations into play against the right-hander from round-the wicket. Harbhajan flighted and spun the ball into Prasanna, angled it across, and got the odd delivery to straighten.
Harbhajan struck again, landing the ball in line from round-the-wicket and winning a leg-before verdict against the left-handed Rangana Herath. He then lost his bearings after an aggressive Muttiah Muralitharan waded into him.
For Sri Lanka, Samaraweera impressed. He is a well-organised batsman with decisive footwork and the gift of timing. The Sri Lankan was all poise and balance as he flicked Sreesanth when the paceman erred in direction. When Sreesanth pitched short, he was guided past the cordon with soft hands.
The whip on-the-walk when Harbhajan flighted one underlined the quality in Samaraweera's batsmanship. Footwork combined with wristwork as the Sri Lankan, adjusting to the trajectory and length, coaxed the ball through the gap. He reached a well-deserved half-century by creating room to cut Ojha and then employed the sweep effectively against Harbhajan.
Samaraweera found some support from the Sri Lankan tail. Muralitharan biffed a 11-ball 29 before he swung across a straight one from Ojha.
And a rather solid-looking Ajantha Mendis (27 off 75 balls) offered stubborn resistance. The ninth-wicket partnership produced 73 runs before left-armer Yuvraj Singh trapped Mendis leg-before with a delivery that came in with the arm.
Moments later, Ojha brought the Test to an end. The left-arm spinner bowled with much control and held his nerve on a big occasion.