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December 20, 2005
India 398 and 287 for 9 (Yuvraj 75, Agarkar 48) lead Sri
Lanka 206 (Dilshan 65, Harbhajan 7-62) by 479 runs
You cannot accuse Sri Lanka of letting things drift in this game: for all three days so far, they were switched on, positive, and played with unrelenting intensity. But, yet again, they were outplayed by a determined Indian side. First, Tillekeratne Dilshan, with an assured 65, helped them to 206, thus saving the follow-on. Then they took regular wickets to restrict India to 100 for 5. But Yuvraj Singh, with a commanding 75 off 83 balls, and Ajit Agarkar, with 48 off 43, attacked them out of the game. India finished the day on 287 for 9, 479 ahead.
The most exhilarating passage of play came when Yuvraj was at the crease. He has always been suspected of weakness against spin, but the way he batted today, you'd have suspected him of a weakness for the thing. Whether rocking back to cut or pull or stepping out to the pitch of the ball, he was completely in control. He drove and pulled well, but his sweep was his most memorable shot today, powerful and devoid of risk. Time and again he went down on his knees as if to propose, but proceeded to dispose.
After he was out, chasing a wide ball from Malinga Bandara and edging it to the keeper, Agarkar took over. He batted with controlled aggression, and his intent was evident in the way he looked at the bowler while in his stance: jaws taut, eyes wide open and focussed, head unmoving, balanced. With full backlift and followthrough, he kept the bowlers worried and the fielders exercised, hitting six fours and a six in his innings.
He was out with the score on 247, when Bandara cunningly held one back and Agarkar's drive ended up in a tame return catch. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh then continued playing positively, hitting a six each, as India's lead climbed well past 450.
While the day ended in flamboyance, it had begun with attrition. Sri Lanka had battled hard to avoid the follow-on, and despite Dilshan's effort, Sri Lanka's lower order were never likely to resist the Indian bowlers, who thrive in such conditions, for long. Harbhajan Singh was particularly destructive, finishing up with 7 for 62.
Jehan Mubarak was the first to go in the morning, bowled through the gate by a ball from Kumble that turned into him (144 for 6). Shortly afterwards, Harbhajan picked up his fifth wicket of the innings, taking a one-handed return catch to his right after Farveez Maharoof, intending to drive, merely pushed the ball up towards mid-on (155 for 7).
Dilshan and Bandara then added 43, removing worries of having to follow on. Dilshan batted with composure and control, and his footwork and shot selection were immaculate. Bandara, meanwhile, was not averse to giving the ball a thump, slog-sweeping Harbhajan for six, and then stepping out and tonking another six over long-on.
But it was a false dawn. Dilshan was out with the score on 198, beaten by Harbhajan's turn and bounce, caught by a diving Mohammad Kaif at short leg. It was similar to how Lasith Malinga was out later, fending the ball off for a diving leg slip to catch it. In between, Muttiah Muralitharan was stumped off Kumble, after Kumble saw him charge down the track and pitched it short.
Sri Lanka struck off the first ball they bowled, which hardly deserved a wicket. Malinga's ball was very wide and very short, and Virender Sehwag lunged out to tip it up towards third man, where Maharoof took an easy catch. But Maharoof doesn't just catch: he took the next wicket, bowling a beautiful good-length ball to VVS Laxman that seamed away, and took an edge on the way (5 for 2). Wickets feel regularly thereafter - Sachin Tendulkar was a trifle unclucky to be adjudged lbw off a ball that hit him high on his leg - but the tempo of run-scoring stayed high. A certain player who is reputed not to like spin was responsible for that. So much for reputations.
Jehan Mubarak b Kumble 13 (144 for 6)
Bowled through the gate
Farveez Maharoof c and b Harbhajan 4 (155 for 7)
Mistimed drive caught one-handed by the bowler
TM Dilshan c Kaif b Harbhajan 65 (198 for 8)
Beaten by bounce and turn, diving catch at short leg
Muttiah Muralitharan st Dhoni b Kumble 3 (201 for 9)
Stepped out, tried to cut, easy stumping
Lasith Malinga c Sehwag b Harbhajan 0 (206)
Beaten by bounce and turn, diving catch at leg slip
Virender Sehwag c Maharoof b Malinga 0 (0 for 1)
Chases a short, wide ball and tipped it on to third man
VVS Laxman c Sangakkara b Maharoof 5 (9 for 2)
Edged a good-length ball that gently seamed away
Sachin Tendulkar lbw Dilshan 19 (34 for 3)
Trapped on the back foot, but hit rather high
Gautam Gambhir c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 30 (81 for 4)
Chased a ball that spun away and bounced sharply, edged it behind
Mohammad Kaif lbw Bandara 9 (100 for 5)
On the front foot, rapped by a ball that straightened
MS Dhoni lbw Muralitharan 14 (134 for 6)
Went back, played across, missed, plumb in front
Yuvraj Singh c Sangakkara b Bandara 75 (174-7)
Chased a wide ball outside off and edged it
Irfan Pathan b Muralitharan 27 (198 for 8)
Tried to pull a ball outside off, played on
Ajit Agarkar c & b Bandara 48 (247 for 9)
Deceived by a ball that was held back just a bit, easy return catch
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