SPORT

It's all over in 30 minutes

THE LAST ONE: The Indian team is all smiles after wrapping up the third Test and the series against Sri Lanka.

THE LAST ONE: The Indian team is all smiles after wrapping up the third Test and the series against Sri Lanka.  

S. Ram Mahesh

Ahmedabad: India's last day of international cricket this year lasted all of 30 minutes. After the brass band that greets players at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium here had belted out a few numbers — in which the Sri Lankans would have detected notes of a dirge — the beautiful symmetry of numbers took over.

Champion leg-spinner Anil Kumble, in his 100th Test, ended with five wickets in the second innings; his comrade-in-arms off-spinner Harbhajan Singh playing his 50th game finished with ten in the match. Together they took 17 of the 20 that fell.

In perspective

"The team had had a bad phase and has recovered very well," said stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag putting the thumping 2-0 series victory in perspective. "The boys worked very hard and this winning habit is very important for us."

Closure was as perfect as it was fitting: Sehwag dived low to his right to snaffle the edge that gave Kumble his five-for. The margin of victory was a whopping 259 runs — 10 more than Sri Lanka's highest innings of the match! And five and a half hours of play separated the sides.

The final day began with Sri Lanka on 235 for six, with the reedy Jehan Mubarak and Farveez Maharoof unveiling their intentions early on. Both demonstrated their best defensive pose as they walked out to do battle with two of the world's best spinners.

Tracks in western India, because of higher sand content, are inclined to lose pace and bounce over five days and Motera has seen many a side stonewall an entire day. This one despite the early promise of lift had eased into a wicket, batsman of stern technical grammar — especially defensive, could roll their sleeping bags out on. Those of more vigorous disposition could strut their stuff provided they picked the right ball, as Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene had done on the fourth evening. "It got slower and slower," said Sehwag.

"That's why I gave the spinners the new ball, so they could use the bounce. I thought our spinners did very well."

Sri Lankan skipper Marvan Atapattu too picked bounce as the differentiator between the twirlers of the two sides. While he chose to assign the pronounced seam of the SG Test ball as the cause of bounce, even quoting Harbhajan Singh ("Talking to Harbhajan, he reckons so" - Atapattu), another factor is the Indian spinners are taller.

Harbhajan's loop

Consequently Harbhajan's loop has a higher starting point, which translates into greater rise on dip; Kumble's powerful shoulder and high arc of release ensures he extracts a similar — if not more obliging — response.

So it was into this arena that Messrs Mubarak and Maharoof strode. The latter left in the second over of the day, playing the wrong line to a Kumble skidder. The next over, Mubarak got one that turned the width of the stumps across his bat face and went low to slip.

Muttiah Muralitharan startled the gathering by playing defensive strokes of some quality to his first two deliveries. But try as a man might he can't suppress who he is, and a swipe across the line to his counterpart ended Murali's stay. Then Sehwag dived, as has been chronicled earlier, to trigger celebrations more mild than wild.

Scoreboard

India — 1st innings: 398

Sri Lanka — 1st innings: 206

India — 2nd innings: 316

Sri Lanka — 2nd innings: U. Tharanga c Gambhir b Kumble 47, M. Atapattu c Kaif b Harbhajan 16, K. Sangakkara lbw b Kumble 17, M. Jayawardene c & b Agarkar 57, T. Samaraweera c Kaif b Kumble 5, T. Dilshan c Dhoni b Pathan 65, J. Mubarak c Laxman b Harbhajan 18, F. Maharoof lbw b Kumble 2, M. Bandara c Sehwag b Kumble 11, M. Muralitharan b Harbhajan 3, L. Malinga (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, nb-7) 8; Total (in 92.3 overs) 249.

Fall of wickets: 1-39 (Atapattu), 2-84 (Sangakkara), 3-89 (Tharanga), 4-96 (Samaraweera), 5-201 (Jayawardene), 6-229 (Dilshan), 7-235 (Maharoof), 8-235 (Mubarak), 9-245 (Muralitharan).

India bowling: Pathan 9-1-31-1, Harbhajan 31-7-79-3, Agarkar 11-3-18-1, Kumble 34.3-9-89-5, Sehwag 3-0-18-0, Tendulkar 4-0-13-0.

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