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Result Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets

Series Sri Lanka won the 3-match series 2-1
Test debut KTGD Prasad (Sri Lanka)
Player of the match KC Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
Player of the series BAW Mendis (Sri Lanka)

Drip by drip, Sri Lanka made their way to a comprehensive series win, their first over India since 2001. On what turned out to be the final day of the series, Sri Lanka did not attack overtly, and kept their composure at crucial junctures – when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman had a long partnership, and also when India struck with two early wickets, after Sri Lanka came out in pursuit of 122.

A bowler short, a batsman limping, the No. 11 in no shape to bat, and only 14 runs ahead with half the team gone, India started the day as no-hopers, but they managed to give Sri Lanka a few nervous moments. Dravid and Laxman – who was nursing an ankle injury – provided resistance for about 90 minutes. Harbhajan Singh played a cameo to take the lead beyond 100, and then took a wicket in his first over.

Sri Lanka seemed in no hurry. They waited patiently, bowled in the right areas, and got the last five Indian wickets without much damage. It was Ajantha Mendis who broke the resistance, dismissing Dravid half an hour before lunch. And when Harbhajan, who hit five boundaries in his 26, looked to take India towards a sizeable lead, Chaminda Vaas, that epitome of discipline, struck in the first over he bowled after his three with the first new-ball.

When India struck early, reducing them to 22 for 2, Sri Lanka didn’t look to hit out, and waited instead for Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan to tire. Harbhajan, who opened the bowling in Ishant Sharma’s absence, bowled Michael Vandort with an arm-ball; and Zaheer Khan got Kumar Sangakkara soon after on the check-drive. Malinda Warnapura and Mahela Jayawardene weathered the storm, survived lbw shouts, and were content to add only 23 in 10.3 overs before tea.

The two went on to frustrate the Indian bowlers after tea, too. They never looked harried, kept rotating the strike, and by the time the Indians had frustrated themselves into exhausting their reviews, started to have some fun with sweeps – both orthodox and reverse. The only contest in the end was whether Jayawardene would get to a half-century as Warnapura had done earlier. Jayawardene was 46 and Sri Lanka three short of the win when he square-cut Sourav Ganguly for a four to end the match.

That India had a semblance of a chance when they began bowling was thanks to the partnership between Laxman and Dravid. Coming out of bad patches, they took the first steps towards what briefly seemed to be an incredible comeback, before they were stopped. Nonetheless it was the best partnership between two of the Fab Four in this series. The two looked comfortable reading the spinners, nudging and flicking for singles at ease, and capitalising on the fields set by rotating the strike. Laxman, who had Gautam Gambhir running for him, was visibly in pain, limping away to square leg when he got singles.

VVS Laxman scored a fighting 61 not out despite an injured ankle, but finally ran out of partners © AFP

Dravid and Laxman lasted as long as they did thanks in no small measure to Sri Lanka’s strategy: for much of the time, they didn’t employ conspicuously attacking fields, and gave away singles for free as they tried to prevent boundaries. As a result, despite the time consumed, India’s lead never reached threatening proportions.

The day started with Dravid closing in on his first half-century of the series, which he brought up with a punched boundary off Mendis. He then settled down again, looking determined as he played the most confident innings by an Indian middle-order batsman in the series. Laxman at the other end received plenty of favours from Sri Lanka. When he was on 35, he edged Muttiah Muralitharan, but there was no slip. The field at that time had no slip and no silly point, and had a short mid-on, a short midwicket, a short square leg, and a backward square leg. In Murali’s next over, Laxman was dropped by Thilan Samaraweera at short mid-on. After he got to his second half-century of the series, he was dropped by Malinda Warnapura at forward short leg.

In between those drops and missed chances, he hit Dammika Prasad for two delightful boundaries, but those were about the only quick runs India got from Sri Lanka, who stuck to their plan of not letting India run away with the game, testing their patience and resolve, knowing the wicket-taking delivery would come.

Come it did, courtesy Mendis, who, bowling from round the stumps, drew Dravid forward and got the ball to move enough to take the edge. Then Murali, who had started from over the stumps, came back round, and got Kumble lbw with an accurate offbreak. Mendis ended with 26 wickets, the best for a debutant in a three-match series, and Murali with 21.

Sri Lanka have now won 13 of their last 16 series at home, and have not lost to India at home since 1993. The way Mendis and Murali bowled through the series bodes well for the continuation of Sri Lanka’s near-invincibility at home. It could signal the beginning of the end for the most feared middle order in world cricket.

Source: http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/slvind/content/story/364645.html

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“He is talented, very talented, but has no brains,” was Geoff Boycott’s on-air verdict after Virender Sehwag’s attempt to hook a ball from outside off stump found the fielder at deep square leg and triggered a first-innings collapse at the SSC.

Sehwag’s response to a question regarding his approach after his maverick innings – a 15th Test century at a strike-rate of 104.91 – was deadpan. “How can I stop the way I’ve played?” he said. “Yes, there is pressure if wickets fall and you think ‘What if I go for a shot and get out too?’ But if that happens you’re never going to score runs.”

After two batting collapses in the first Test it was imperative that India got a solid start. Sehwag provided that by using a simple mantra: if the ball is there to be hit, hit it. Circumstances rarely affect Sehwag and he put the pedal to the metal. A whip off the pads past midwicket got him started, a wild sweep that was unsuccessfully referred didn’t stall him, and when he charged Ajantha Mendis and swung him over cow corner for six, Sehwag was at full throttle.

The stand-out feature was the effortless manner in which Sehwag handled Mendis, who was virtually unplayable in Colombo. The key, in his own simple words, was that here Sehwag “picked him [Mendis] off the track, from where the ball pitched”, something only he and and Sachin Tendulkar have managed to do in this series.

When Mendis tossed the ball up on middle and off, Sehwag smothered the spin, and when the bowler drifted on to middle, he went back and turned it fine. If it spun in sharply, Sehwag adjusted his back leg and brought his bat down quickly to kill the ball. Sehwag also picked the two-fingered googly and moved back to cut or punch through the off-side. He failed to beat cover with the drive once but replayed the shot two balls later with more power and placed it to perfection. Mendis’ first four overs cost 29.

Sehwag accelerated and yet remained in control with Gautam Gambhir, fleet-footed against spin, in the passenger seat. There were cracks at one end of the pitch and Nuwan Kulasekera asked a few questions but Sehwag steered clear of them. He cut Muttiah Muralitharan’s first ball, a doosra from around the stumps, to reach his half-century off 50 balls. His strike rate, like a speedometer, fluctuated from 60 to 98 and beyond. India’s 100 came from 115 balls and Sehwag’s contribution was 59.

Like Sri Lanka did at the SSC, he and Gambhir ran hard, hustling for the second, and constantly looking for scoring opportunities. Sehwag and Aakash Chopra, another Delhi team-mate, did this effectively during the majority of their 19 partnerships, notably in Australia in 2003-04. Some of today’s singles were risky but the intent was obvious and it frustrated Sri Lanka.

In the over before lunch, Sehwag put his arm around Gambhir’s shoulder and had a word. Gambhir reached his fifty off the next ball and a beaming Sehwag rushed to congratulate him. When Sehwag dabbed a single behind point to raise the 150 partnership, he punched gloves with Gambhir as they crossed. How many batsmen can power a side to 150 for 0 at lunch? The camaraderie was plain to see.

After a four-hour rain delay, Mendis tested Gambhir with his variation but at the other end Sehwag disdainfully smashed Vaas over cow corner off his second ball after the resumption. Two balls later he played a booming straight drive to reach his century, which he celebrated with a proud wave of the bat to the dressing room and an embrace from his partner. His 15th hundred took only 87 balls with 15 fours and two sixes but the message was deeper.

At the MCG, in 2003-04, India were 311 for 3 but collapsed for 366 after Sehwag was dismissed for 195 at the end of the first day. In Adelaide earlier this year Sehwag scored 151 out of India’s 269 in the second innings. Today, Sehwag had driven India to a position of strength at 167 for 0 before four wickets fell in 20 balls for 11 runs. As he had done against England in Galle during the winter, Chaminda Vaas, rejuvenated after the rain delay, struck twice in an over. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were dismissed with the score on 178 and the morning’s work had come undone.

“I didn’t notice any change in my batting after the four-hour break in play,” Sehwag said. “Every batsman has his own mindset with which he plays, but I just played my shots.” Even as stumps approached, Sehwag relied on his base instinct. Mendis went around the stumps and Sehwag used his feet to smash him down the ground and hit two consecutive fours through cover.

Sehwag had fulfilled his responsibility of providing a sound start but the collapse meant that he had to hold the innings together. His unshakeable approach did not change. “I am not satisfied because there’s plenty left in this game,” was Sehwag’s closing statement. “If I can convert this into a double-century or more tomorrow, get India above 400-500, apply pressure on Sri Lanka, then I will be satisfied.”

Crushed in Colombo, India arrived in Galle needing to find a way to bounce back. Only a vivid imagination could have conceived of a fightback without it being led by Sehwag. Like the white breakers of the Indian Ocean, lashing across the rocks in the background of the Galle International Stadium, Sehwag has injected life into a one-sided series.

He has brains alright, and he’s used them rather well.

Source: http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/slvind/content/current/story/363146.html

Sri Lanka 600 for 6 dec (Jayawardene 136, Dilshan 125*, Warnapura 115, Samaraweera 127) beat India 223 (Laxman 56, Murali 5-84, Mendis 4-72) and 138 (Gambhir 43, Murali 6-26, Mendis 4-60) by an innings and 239 runs

In a match dominated by not one but two spin wizards, Sri Lanka completely destroyed the Indian batting line-up twice over to script their best win at home. India started the fourth day needing 242 runs to avoid the follow-on but, with 77 minutes to go to stumps, they had slumped to their third-worst Test defeat ever with an abject collapse against Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.

Murali and Mendis, assisted by the ever-alert close-in cordon, did not loosen the vice-like grip they had had over the batsmen from the moment the ball was thrown to Mendis in the 10th over of India’s first innings. With Mendis keeping the batsmen on a leash – his only two bad deliveries were the full tosses in his first two overs – and leaving the batsmen mesmerised, it was Murali who smiled his way to two five-fors and his 21st ten-wicket haul, which was also his fourth at the SSC.

There was no respite for the batsmen from either end as 19 wickets fell to the spin pair, who bowled 87.5 overs out of the 117.5 that India faced in the match. Murali was always likely to be a threat, but Mendis showed that his six-wicket haul against India in the Asia Cup final was not a one-off. His bowling action is almost as intriguing as the kind of deliveries he bowls: in his final stride, the index finger of his left hand points upwards, as if giving the batsman out. On the basis of this performance, that action is completely justified as one of the most anticipated debuts of recent times turned out to be the best for a Sri Lankan.

The Indian batsmen had struggled in the first innings, but the second was a greater embarrassment as Murali and Mendis nailed the batsmen with similar deliveries to the ones that had done them in in the first innings. With India trailing by 377 in the first innings, the follow-on decision was a no-brainer. The new-ball bowlers were fresh: they bowled only 16 overs in the innings, with Murali and Mendis bowling 49 successive overs in tandem. In the second innings, the fast bowlers had even less work to do: Jayawardene summoned his spinners after five overs and the move worked immediately. Murali accounted for Sehwag in a controversial manner, with what was the last ball before lunch. Sehwag shouldered arms to one that pitched barely on leg stump and straightened. Umpire Mark Benson turned down the appeal, but changed his mind after what seemed like errors from the Virtual Eye and third umpire Rudi Koertzen.

The next session sealed the game for Sri Lanka, as India lost five wickets. Perhaps hoping for a repeat of Kolkata 2001, India sent Laxman, the first-innings half-centurion, at No. 3. He hit three beautiful boundaries off the medium-pacers, before Mendis had his number. This time it was the quicker googly which baffled him. Laxman didn’t have a clue about which way it would spin, and was trapped plumb in front.

Sachin Tendulkar was a tad unfortunate when he missed a sweep outside the leg stump, the ball catching the back of the bat and lobbing to leg slip. Tendulkar stood his ground, and it needed a review to send him on his way. Gambhir was drawn forward for the second time in two innings and beaten in flight before Prasanna Jayawardene completed an exceptional stumping.

Just before tea, Murali and Mendis worked their magic again in successive overs. Sourav Ganguly hadn’t looked comfortable against Murali and edged to second slip. Mendis then made Rahul Dravid revisit the first-innings horror when a quick carrom-ball legbreak just missed off stump. The next ball, a googly, had Dravid playing in front of his pad. The inside edge lobbed to short leg and, though the appeal was turned down, the review came into play again, making Dravid the third Indian batsman to perish in that manner. The rest was just a formality, which Murali and Mendis finished in style, Mendis taking the last two in the same over.

The first half of the day was slightly better only than what transpired later. Muralitharan completed his 64th five-for with Harbhajan Singh’s wicket, but it was Mendis who inflicted major damage. Even Laxman had trouble picking him, the carrom ball being his main tormentor. Laxman was let off in the second over of the day, as an outside edge off Mendis bisected the keeper and Mahela Jayawardene at slip. The other batsmen were even more clueless. Anil Kumble and Zaheer were trapped by Mendis’ top spinners. Harbhajan played for a Murali doosra, but got an offspinner, which resulted in an easy bat-pad catch.

Despite having only the tailenders for company, Laxman didn’t farm the strike, twice allowing his partners to take a single off the last ball of the over. Harbhajan fell in the over that followed, while Zaheer survived. When Ishant Sharma joined him, Laxman finally took more of the strike and continued to do so until he was fairly confident in Ishant’s ability. Laxman had himself grown in confidence, reading Mendis better and employing the wristy flick. Despite the odd leading edge, he continued to attack. But Mendis, having bowled an unbroken 27-over spell, returned from Murali’s end to get his man. He first beat him with a 95kph legbreak, angling in and then breaking it away, before squaring him up with a googly, ending his 158-minute stay at the crease. Dravid and Laxman foxed in each innings of his first Test – as dream debuts go, there can’t be many better than this.

Through the first two-and-a-half days of the match, the pitch seemed a shirtfront and a draw seemed the most likely result, especially given the inclement weather at the start. The magic of two outstanding spinners meant the game didn’t go into the fifth day. Sri Lanka last lost a Test at home in April 2006, against Pakistan in Kandy. With Murali and Mendis so frighteningly effective in tandem, it’s hard to imagine an overseas team defeating this double threat any time soon.

Muralitharan leaves India in tatters

India 159 for 6 (Gambhir 39, Murali 4-38) trail Sri Lanka 600 for 6 dec (Dilshan 127*) by 441 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

The SSC track was woken out of its slumber by Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, after Sri Lanka’s batsmen had given them a 600-run mountain for background, and the new-ball bowlers had tried to take the shine off the ball. Once the spinners came on, everyone was left either mesmerised or stunned. By the time bad light stopped play on the third day, Sri Lanka had reduced India to 159 for 6, still needing 242 to avoid the follow-on.

Full report to follow

Tea India 73 for 1 (Gambhir 34*, Dravid 14*) trail Sri Lanka 600 for 6 dec (Dilshan 127*) by 527 runs

And the run orgy continued. Tillakaratne Dilshan revelled in the SSC fun, scoring his first century in three years and setting up Sri Lanka’s declaration at 600 for 6, leaving India 54 overs to negotiate on the third day. The Indian batsmen started merrily, but after Virender Sehwag’s dismissal they became more circumspect to reach 73 for 1 by tea.

The day began with India trying to slow the scoring down and delay the inevitable declaration for as long as possible. But Dilshan, who resumed the day on 20 off 55 balls, had different ideas. He rocked back and cut the first ball of the day for three to cover, and then clipped the first ball of the next over for two. The outfield was slow, India soon employed an in-and-out field, and Dilshan set into a one-day mould, tipping and running, finding gaps in the outfield for two, and going for an occasional boundary. All through, only his head gear changed: from helmet to bare head to the floppy hat. The floppy hat was his only discomfort, falling off whenever he sprinted for quick runs.

The true show of intent came in the 10th over of the day, when Dilshan cut Zaheer Khan for a boundary and followed it with a Twenty20-style paddle. In his next over, Zaheer reached his most expensive figures in Test cricket, beating the 3 for 135 he had conceded against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 2005-06.

Both Indian spinners went round the stumps to Dilshan, with a 6-3 on-side field at times. There was momentary control, but Dilshan pulled and swept effectively, hitting Kumble for a four and a six in one over to move to 89. He brought up his fifth Test hundred with a slog-sweep in the over before lunch.

The only chance for India arrived early on when Thilan Samaraweera ended his innings tamely by guiding Zaheer to VVS Laxman at gully. Samaraweera would be kicking himself for not having converted his overnight century into a big one, as batting seemed easy on the sun-baked pitch. Harbhajan showed encouraging signs by getting a nice loop and offbreak going, but as usual the spin was too slow. There was enough time for the batsmen to recover even after getting beaten in the flight. And when Harbhajan did get the edge, off Dilshan, it landed short of Gautam Gambhir at leg slip.

While Prasanna Jayawardene missed out with 30, Chaminda Vaas and Dilshan added a quick 55. Vaas played two exquisite back-foot drives off Zaheer, in a spell where Sri Lanka took five boundaries in five overs.

After 162 overs on the field, Virender Sehwag and Gambhir finally got a chance to bat. The featherbed of a pitch allowed the pair to get into their stride quickly and Sehwag was especially aggressive, hitting five boundaries in the first five overs. But he threw it away when he failed to control a hook off Nuwan Kulasekera, which landed down Malinda Warnapura’s throat at deep square-leg.

Just before tea, the much-anticipated happened: Ajantha Mendis was introduced. In three overs, he got Gambhir to jab at sliders twice, but Gambhir had his way too when he feasted on two full tosses. With his last ball before tea, he beat Rahul Dravid with a legbreak, and presently the dull match came alive

Source: http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/slvind/content/story/362407.html

Sri Lanka overcame the shaky start on the first day and resumed normal service, accumulating runs on the placid SSC pitch, and capitalised on reprieves to move into a position of strength. Mahela Jayawardene looked set from the moment his innings began shortly before stumps last evening and, by tea, he had scored a classy 105 and threatened to punish India severely for the opportunities they failed to take.

It was Jayawardene’s ninth century at the SSC and he now shares the world record for most hundreds at a single venue with Don Bradman who made nine at the MCG. Jayawardene’s has played his club cricket at the SSC and has scored over a quarter of his Test runs here: 2167 runs, another world record at a specific venue, in 20 Tests at an average of 83.34.

Jayawardene’s century today was preceded by Malinda Warnapura’s second hundred in his fifth Test. His was a more controlled performance: he was sure against the semi-new ball and his confidence grew as the ball got older.

Sri Lanka added 220 runs in two sessions today for the loss of only Warnapura. Their batsmen were rarely troubled and 55 turned out to be their lucky number. In the sixth over of the day, Zaheer Khan had Warnapura, on 55 at the time, caught and bowled off a marginal no-ball. His foot landed on the line and then just slid over. Jayawardene was also on 55 when a slider from Anil Kumble found the bottom edge. Dinesh Karthik, perhaps unsighted by the bat, couldn’t hold on to the catch. On 93, Jayawardene was beaten comprehensively – a rare event given his form – by a legbreak from Kumble which might have taken a faint edge. Karthik once again couldn’t gather it, and ended the debate right there.

Apart from those three chances, India’s bowlers did not have much going for them. Two boundaries in the fifth over of the day summed up the medium-pacers’ predicament. Jayawardene moved on to front foot against Ishant Sharma; the bowler consciously shortened the length but Jayawardene had enough time to transfer the weight on to the back foot and cut in front of point. He played an identical shot the next ball and the message was clear: economy might be the best form of attack once the ball lost its shine for the pitch absorbed the pace and offered only slow movement.

After Sri Lanka had scored 38 in the first six overs – Jayawardene contributing 23 -Kumble, the pick of the bowlers, brought himself on to replace Ishant. He conceded only 12 runs off his first 10 overs and India began to exercise some control over the run-flow. By tea, Kumble had bowled 22 overs for 47 runs and should have had Jayawardene at least once.

India’s only wicket came in the post-lunch session when Harbhajan, from round the wicket, made Warnapura play at an offbreak and got the edge through to Rahul Dravid. Thilan Samaraweera nearly played on against Harbhajan early in his innings but he settled down and unobtrusively reached a half-century just before the tea break.

Zaheer came for a testing spell in the middle session, getting reverse swing from round the wicket. His stock ball remained the one headed for the pads but he got the odd one to swing away. He even managed to beat Jayawardene with the away-going delivery. By tea, India’s medium-pacers had bowled 43 overs between them and that could be the reason that Kumble didn’t take the new ball.

Source: http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/slvind/content/story/362301.html