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Updated: November 25, 2009 19:14 IST

India tightens grip on Kanpur Test

S. Dinakar
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Rahul Dravid hit a classy 144 in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Kanpur and became the fourth highest scorer in Tests.
AP Rahul Dravid hit a classy 144 in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Kanpur and became the fourth highest scorer in Tests.

The odd delivery kept low and there were occasions when the ball gripped for the spinners at Green Park on Wednesday. After Rahul Dravid's smooth-stroking hundred and a five-wicket haul from left-arm spinner Rangana Herath on day two, the second Test holds interesting possibilities.

Replying to India's daunting 642, Sri Lanka was 66 for one in its first innings after 24 tense overs in a packed stadium.

Early strike

India had struck straightaway when Tillakaratne Dilshan scooped a catch off a Zaheer Khan delivery down-the-leg-side.

The left-handed duo of Tharanga Paranavitana and skipper Kumar Sangakkara – both batsmen are on 30 each - batted resolutely in the cauldron. The two collected runs with punched drives, firm pushes and the odd sweep.

Zaheer was zestful while Santhakumaran Sreesanth ran in to a nice rhythm. And there was some purchase from the track for Harbhajan Singh and debutant Pragyan Ojha.

Sangakkara, hemmed in by the close-in cordon, survived a confident shout for leg-before from Harbhajan. The ball appeared heading for the leg-stump. Survival will demand application and sure-footed play from the Sri Lankans.

In the afternoon, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath achieved drift and turn to bring the Indian innings to an abrupt halt.

He used the width of the crease cleverly to get the ball to curl in and hold its line from round-the-wicket to castle Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh. Both batsmen ended up playing outside the line.

The left-arm spinner mixed the one spinning away with the arm ball to polish off the tail.

Spectacular catch

Earlier, a spectacular leaping catch by Sangakkara at mid-wicket ended the punishing Yuvraj Singh's tenure. The left-handed unleashed a pull off Ajantha Mendis but saw the Lankan captain timing his jump to perfection.

Yuvraj (67) had batted with flair striking Mendis straight and slog-sweeping Muttiah Muralitharan for the maximum. The left-hander countered the spinners effectively, getting on to the front foot and employing the sweep. With the ball not coming on, run-making demanded inventiveness.

The Indians have handled Mendis well in this Test since they have essentially played the Sri Lankan as a leggie who spins the odd ball in. After the mental switch, Mendis' carrom ball becomes just another delivery.

Impeccable

Dravid (144, 226b, 15x4, 1x6) reached his 28th Test hundred in the morning. His forward defence is one of the great sights in contemporary cricket. It's a copy-book stroke of poise and grace. The body is solidly behind the line with his left foot moving in tandem with the bat; the gap between the front pad and the willow is non-existent and the head is still.

The stroke appears simple but requires extreme balance. If the body weight is not properly distributed, then a batsman can so easily fall over and be a candidate for a leg-before decision or allow the ball to sneak in through the gap.

There were occasions last season when Dravid appeared to be struggling with his balance. Consequently, he was vulnerable to deliveries nipping back.

Now, his defence is secure, which means the other aspects of his game can blossom. The ace batsman eased into cover-drives off either foot, both against the pacemen and Muralitharan.

Dravid reached his hundred with a firm off-drive off left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegedara. During his effort, the right-hander surpassed Allan Border's tally of 11,174 to become the fourth highest run-getter in Tests.

The former India captain continued to torment the Lankan bowlers. Dravid was sublime in the manner he transferred his weight to cut Mendis past the ropes.

Unfortunate end

He was desperately unlucky to be caught out of the crease after Herath deflected a return catch from Laxman.

Earlier, Tendulkar (40) was fortunate on 30 when Dilshan grassed a flick at mid-wicket off Menis. Tendulkar celebrated the reprieve by stepping down and thwacking Mendis over the long-off ropes. Moments later in the same over, he holed to a cleverly stationed deep mid-off.

Laxman (63) timed the ball sweetly. A whip through mid-wicket off Welegedara operating over-the-wicket – Laxman picked the ball from the off-stump – was high on the scale of difficulty. And a couple of his front-footed cover-drives were majestic.

The right-hander survived a vociferous leg-before shout when he was caught at the crease as a Herath ball skidded off the pitch. Laxman was soon dismissed, attempting an inside-out cover-drive off the left-armer. Herath deserves credit for sticking to his job in a series dominated by batsmen.

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