|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
India on threshold of victory
Harish Kotian in Ahmedabad | December 21, 2005 11:48 IST
Last Updated: December 21, 2005 18:43 IST
Anil Kumble claimed three wickets for 86 runs as Sri Lanka were reduced to 235 for 6 at close of play on day four in the third and final Test at the Sardar Patel stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, on Wednesday.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (65) scored his second half-century of the match to help deny India an early finish.
Kumble took the wickets of Kumara Sangakkara (17), Upul Tharanga (47) and Thilan Samaraweera (5) to reduce Sri Lanka to 96 for 4, before Dilshan added 105 runs with Mahela Jayawardene, who scored 57, as the duo battled hard against the Indian spinners.
Earlier, India declared their second innings on 316 for 9 in the morning session, setting Sri Lanka a mammoth target of 508 runs.
Only once in the history of Test cricket has a side batted more overs to achieve a draw. This performance had come from England in the famous 'timeless' Test against South Africa at Durban in 1938-39, when they batted a whopping 291 overs to score 654 for 5 in pursuit of the victory target of 696, after which the game had to be abandoned as the visitors had to catch the steam ship back home.
Sri Lanka had handed India a huge first innings lead of 192 runs after being bundled out for 206 in the first innings in reply to India's score of 398.Morning session: (68 runs, 1 wicket, 21.3 overs)
India batted for around 20 minutes on the fourth day before declaring their second innings on 316 for 9.
Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh enjoyed themselves for five overs, hitting boundaries at will, to end up unbeaten on 29 and 40 respectively and set Sri Lanka a huge target of 508 runs.
The match was well and truly in India's grasp once Sri Lanka were bundled out for 206 in their first innings in reply to India's score of 398.
Sri Lanka now have to play out two days to salvage a draw, but given the form Kumble and Harbhajan have shown, particularly in this series, it may seem a distinct possibility. They have to face a total of 183 overs, out of which the majority will be bowled by the two Indian spinners.
Kumble and Harbhajan have respectively claimed 15 and 11 wickets in the series so far. The Sri Lankan batsmen have often been found wanting the team needed someone to stay out in the middle and play an anchor role.
Harbhajan showed this threat early on as he got a few deliveries to bounce and turn, leaving left-hander Upul Tharanga wondering.
Irfan Pathan struggled at the start of the second innings, dropping short and was he was hit for four boundaries in his first four overs, while Harbhajan conceded just one run in his four overs as Sri Lanka reached 25 for no loss in eight overs.
Pathan's first ball of the fifth over nearly got him a wicket, when Atapattu, on 13, chanced his arm at a wide, short delivery, but Kumble, at gully, dropped the easy offering.
Tharanga played a flashy shot off Harbhajan in the 10th over, once again reaching out to a wide delivery, but luckily for him the edge went between the slip fielder and short gully. Pathan bowled for six overs, before giving way to Agarkar, while at the other end Kumble replaced Harbhajan, but the off-spinner came back for his second spell in the 16th over from the opposite end.
The change worked as he took the wicket of Atapattu with the third delivery of the over. The Sri Lankan captain came down the wicket while trying to get to the pitch of the ball, but was beaten in the flight and the inside edge was neatly taken by Mohammad Kaif at short leg. (39-1, 16.3)
It seemed quite surprising that Sri Lankans, known for playing spinners with relative ease, were struggling on a pitch, where even the Indian tailenders were difficult to dismiss. The Indian final pair of Kumble and Harbhajan looked in no trouble during their unbroken 69-run partnership for the tenth wicket, but here the Sri Lankan openers were struggling.
The Indian batsmen's policy was to be aggressive against the Lankan spinners, which paid rich dividends, but the visitors, it seemed, had no plans to counter the Indian spinners, who just dictated proceedings once they came into the attack.
Post-lunch session: (106 runs, 3 wickets, 41.3 overs)
As pointed by our statistician Rajneesh Gupta, only once in Test cricket has a side managed to bat more overs than required by Sri Lanka to achieve a draw. This performance had come from England in the famous 'timeless' Test against South Africa in Durban in 1938-39.
Chasing a victory target of 696, England played 291 overs to score 654 for 5 when the game had to be abandoned since the visitors had to get to the steam ship back home.
Recently, Mike Atherton batted for more than 10 hours against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1995-96 facing Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock to score an unbeaten 185, helping England reach 351 for five in 165 overs, in one of the best rearguard innings in Test cricket.
But it looked more challenging for Sri Lanka to play out almost two days of a Test.
With every over, one could witness how difficult it was getting for the inexperienced Sri Lankan batsman, and the ball had also started doing things.
Kumble and Harbhajan swapped ends after the lunch break and Kumble almost scalped the key wicket of Kumara Sangakkara in the 23rd over the innings, but the inside edge just fell short of Kaif at short leg.
However, he had his man in the 35th over, when Sangakkara was dismissed leg before wicket. Kumble's leg-spinner took more turn than expected striking the left-hander on the backfoot as he tried to play on the leg-side. (84-2, 34.5)
The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper made 17, adding 45 runs for the second wicket with Tharanga, as they looked to play with utmost caution in their bid to stay at the wicket as long as possible.
Debutant Tharanga failed to stand up to the challenge as the pressure from the Indian spinners kept mounting. The left-hander tried to glance down the leg-side, but Gautam Gambhir at leg slip completed a good catch diving forward. (89-3, 38.5)
Kumble soon had his third wicket of the innings, when Thilan Samarweera got an unplayable delivery, which took off sharply after pitching on off-stump, taking the inside edge to short leg fielder Kaif. (95-4, 40.2)
Playing in his 33rd Test Samarweera has a career average of around 46 but most of his runs have at home and his ability to perform on pitches outside Sri Lanka once again came in to question after a series haul of 42 runs in 3 matches at a lowly average of 10.40.
Curator Dhiraj Parsana's prediction that Kumble wouldn't pose as much threat as Harbhajan was thrown out of the window. The ace leg-spinner proved once again that he didn't need favourable pitches to pick wickets.
Tillkaratne Dilshan once looked to attack the Indian spinners and got off to a quick start, scoring 38 from 57 balls, with three boundaries. Mahela Jayawardene played a steady innings of 29 from 63 balls, with three boundaries as Sri Lanka reached 160 for 4 after 58 overs at tea.
The session once again belonged to India as they claimed three wickets, thereby denting Sri Lanka's resistance, but Dilshan and Jayawardene held them at bay for 17.4 overs after that.
Kumble took all the three wickets in the session, to return with figures of 3 for 51.
The result of the match was never in doubt after Sri Lanka's first innings debacle, but it remains to be seen whether India can finish off the match on Wednesday and complete a crushing victory.
Post-tea session: (75 runs, 2 wickets, 27 overs)
Kumble and Harbhajan started proceedings after tea, but both Jayawardene and Dilshan looked comfortable against them, forcing Agarkar's introduction in the 66th over. He bowled a short-pitched delivery first up to Dilshan, who took on the challenge, despite the fielder on the square leg boundary. The shot defied logic when Sri Lanka's main aim was to play out the overs. But that is the way Dilshan plays his cricket, attacking no matter what the situation is.
Dilshan's confidence seemed to have rubbed on Jayawardene, who played some attacking shots after tea to score his 27th Test half-century in 96 balls. Soon, he brought up the 100-run partnership with Dilshan in 177 balls as India's bid to end the match on day four started to diminish, with Sri Lanka reaching 195 for 4 and 14 overs remaining in the day.
Dilshan also completed his half-century from 94 balls, inclusive of three boundaries. It was his second half-century of the match as Sri Lanka reached 200 for 4 in 71 overs.
But then Agarkar claimed the important wicket of Jayawardene, who was caught and bowled for 57, after consultation with the third umpire, after the batsman felt that the ball might have bounced as it left the bat. (201-5, 71.3)
Jayawardene hit seven boundaries in his 105-ball knock, adding 105 runs for the fifth wicket with Dilshan to delay India's victory push.
Dilshan waged a lone battle after the dismissal of Jayawardene, keeping the spinners at bay as India opted to use both their pacers -- Pathan and Agarkar.
However, Pathan, bowling round the wicket got the wicket of Dilshan, when he edged behind to wicketkeeper of a wide delivery. Just when it looked that Sri Lanka would end the day with half of their batsmen intact, but Pathan got an important wicket at the fag end of the day. (229-6, 80.2)
Dilshan's faced 123 deliveries during his fighting knock of 65 that spanned 162 minutes and included five boundaries. He was by far Sri Lanka's best batsman in the match, scoring 65 in both the innings.
India opted not to use the new ball after the end of 80 overs as Sri Lanka reached 229 for 5. But, in a surprise move, they took the new ball in the 84th over of the innings day, being bowled by off-spinner Harbhajan, and quite surprisingly Kumble shared the new ball with them.
Sri Lanka ended the day on 235 for 6, still 274 runs short of the victory of target of 509. At close, Jehan Mubarak was unbeaten on 18 and Farveez Maharoof not out on 2.
The spinners failed to take any wickets in the final session, with Kumble finishing on 3 for 86 in 31 overs and Harbhajan claiming 1 for 68 in 27 overs. Pathan (1 for 31) and Agarkar (1 for 18) also made useful contributions to take India closer to victory.
With just four Sri Lankan wickets remaining, India will hope to finish off things quite early tomorrow though Sri Lanka will try to delay the inevitable for as long as possible.
Sri Lanka's tour of India 2005: The Complete Coverage