A brief history

India v Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's first official tour of India in 1982-83 was a mixed bag; they lost all three one-day internationals, but achieved an honourable draw in the inaugural Test. Doubts over Sri Lanka's stickability and class had persisted before the series, but their draw earned them respect in the cricketing world - as did their adventurous strokeplay, with which they have become synonymous.
India 0 Sri Lanka 0

Rumesh Ratnayake, who took nine wickets in Sri Lanka's inaugural Test win in 1985 © Getty Images

The series which broke Sri Lanka's duck. The Sri Lankans' energetic and well-organised pre-season training proved decisive - in stark contrast to India's near total lack of preparation. They very nearly reached the milestone of their first victory in the first Test, but resolute and dogged batting from Vengsarkar - and typically tropical weather - denied them the opportunity. The second Test was the emotive moment for cricket's then-newest Test nation. Despite a slow batting performance, their bowlers were on target and utilised the familiar conditions better than their Indian counterparts. A defiant 78 by Kapil Dev threatened to deny the home side, but Ratnayake took the catch off his own bowling to seal the victory, leading to a nationwide celebration and a public holiday the following day.

If the second Test was for Sri Lanka's bowlers, the third proved the resolution they had as a batting team. Set 377 to win, Sri Lanka stumbled to 34 for 3 before their two most accomplished batsmen - Roy Dias and Duleep Mendis - saved the innings (and the match) with a partnership worth 216. Bad light called off play when Sri Lanka's tailenders were in; they won the series 1-0.
Sri Lanka 1 India 0

Sri Lanka's inability to come to terms with spin bowling proved their undoing when they toured India. Plenty of runs were made in the lead-up to the series but not against sufficiently testing bowlers of the quality they were to face in the three Tests. Wettimuny, in making 79, and Ravi Ratnayeke contributed Sri Lanka's first three-figure opening partnership in Tests. Their first-innings total of 406, which was interrupted by rain and fog, was quickly and aggressively matched, and bettered, by the Indians, who racked-up 676 as the game petered out to a draw. The second Test resulted in India's first Test win against Sri Lanka, thanks to India's spinners and, in particular, Maninder Singh who took 7 for 51 with his slow-left-armers, to give him ten wickets in the match and seal a comprehensive innings-and-106-run victory. The third Test belonged to Kapil Dev who, on the third day, took his 300th Test wicket to achieve the "double" of 3000 runs and 300 wickets in Test cricket. This was India's first series win at home since 1981 when they beat Keith Fletcher's England side.
India 2 Sri Lanka 0

A shortened and hastily arranged tour of India for Sri Lanka who were ill-prepared for it. They lost by an innings and eight runs, with the aptly-nicknamed "Muscles", Venkatapathy Raju, utterly decimating Sri Lanka's first innings in taking 6 for 12 in 17.5 overs. Despite a low, turgid pitch, Raju gained turn and bounce, which the visitors were completely unable to cope with. The Sri Lankans were a better match for the Indians in the one-day series which followed, despite losing 2-1.
India 1 Sri Lanka 0

An acrimonious tour, with Peter Burge constantly fielding complaints from the Indians about the quality of the umpiring. It was India's first overseas Test victory since 1986, when they beat England at Leeds, and ended their 27-Test drought. Only 49 minutes of play were possible in the first Test, but the Indians hit their straps in the second Test. It was Manoj Prabhakar's impressive allround performance - 95 in the second innings, and eight wickets in the match - which proved the difference between the two sides. Set an improbable 472 for victory, only Aravinda de Silva could defy the Indians with a six-hour knock of 93. But he threw away his wicket and, with it, Sri Lanka's chance of saving the Test. He continued his good form in the third Test, with a splendidly crafted 148, but Sri Lanka left themselves vulnerable in scoring just 351. The only threat of defeat for Sri Lanka lay in their second innings, but Mahanama compiled a classy 151 to steer the home team to safety.
Sri Lanka 0 India 1

As was the case in India's tour of Sri Lanka a few months earlier, the umpiring proved controversial and cast a shadow over the series. Wisden's account of the series read: "Sri Lankan manager Bandula Warnapura claimed the batting failures of the first two Tests owed as much to the players' nerves, waiting for the next bad decision, as to bad shots..." An uninspiring start by the Indians in the first Test was rectified by Tendulkar and Navjot Sidhu, both hitting hundreds in India's 511. Sri Lanka then crumbled to Kumble in both innings who, on a turning pitch and despite injuring his spinning hand, demolished the visitors as India walked home by an innings and 119 runs. Sri Lanka were up against another total in excess of 500 in the second Test at Bangalore, with Mahanama seemingly the only batsman capable of batting for an extended period. Kapil Dev, adding two wickets to the three he picked up in the first innings, drew level with Richard Hadlee's tally, and broke down with the emotion of the event. India again won by an innings to secure the series victory, and made it 3-0 with another innings victory in the third Test.
India 3 Sri Lanka 0

A mini two-Test tour for India, who had been whitewashed in the one-dayers, with both sides rich in batting and sparse in bowling. Unfortunately, the pitches offered little chance of a result, and both matches ended in turgid draws. India's 537 for 8 declared was quickly matched by the Sri Lankans. Their enormous 952 for 6 was, by 49 runs, the highest-ever innings total, and Sanath Jayasuriya broke a record, too: his 340 was the fourth-highest innings in Tests and the first triple-hundred by a Sri Lankan in first-class cricket. The second Test provided slightly more enjoyment for the bowlers, but Jayasuriya's 199 again proved just how poor India's bowlers had performed: in particular, their two senior bowlers, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble.
Sri Lanka 0 India 0

The lack of penetrative bowling was again the main factor for both teams, a few months after India's tour of Sri Lanka. With the pressure mounting on India's captain, Sachin Tandulkar, his 148 at Mumbai in the third Test wasn't enough to prevent his sacking as skipper. Of India's bowlers, only Javagal Srinath showed his class. Each of the three Tests ended in draws, with Sourav Ganguly the undoubted star of the batsmen, with two hundreds and a 99.
India 0 Sri Lanka 0

Muttiah Muralitharan deservedly earned the Man-of-the-Match award in the 2001 series © Getty Images

Sri Lanka had great reason to celebrate their series victory in 2001 - their first in four home series. They had earlier lost to Pakistan, drawn with South Africa and lost to England. India, playing without Tendulkar for the first time since April 1989, could muster just 187 in the first innings - their lowest total against Sri Lanka, until they fared even worse in the second innings. Muttiah Muralitharan ran through their batsmen, many of whom hadn't faced him before, to guide Sri Lanka through to victory by ten wickets. Despite the convincing performance at Galle, they let slip the opportunity to go 2-0 up with a complacent performance at Kandy. Ganguly, who hadn't made a half-century in his last 13 Test innings, returned to form with an unbeaten 98, including 15 fours, as India convincingly beat the hosts to level the series at 1-1. The third Test at Colombo belonged to Muralitharan who, with 8 for 87 from 34.1 overs, decimated India's first innings. The home team returned to batting form in their reply, with four of their top-eight reaching hundreds in their 610 for 6 declared. Only Shiv Sunder Das (68) offered the necessary resistance, before two superb run-outs and three more wickets for Muralitharan brought Sri Lanka a series win.
Sri Lanka 2 India 1

Sri Lanka played hard, intense cricket, but were outplayed by a team that beat them on talent and matched them in intensity. The best-of-three Test series started in wet, sorry Chennai thanks to cyclone-induced rain washing out the first three-and-a-half days of play, but Sri Lanka dominated, grabbing a bit of the psychological advantage for the rest of the series. A probing spell of left-arm seam from Chaminda Vaas engineered an Indian collapse on day five, for their lowest-ever total against Sri Lanka, before the batsmen, led by the classy Mahela Jayawardene, managed some useful practice ahead of the second Test at Delhi. Anil Kumble continued his romantic affair with the Feroz Shah Kotla, stretching his tally to a stunning 48 from five games, as India wrapped up an emphatic 188-run win to take a 1-0 lead. That was extended to a comprehensive 2-0 series win in Ahmedabad with Kumble and Harbhajan Singh wrapping a spell around the tourists. The powerful duo were the dominant figures of the match, scheming and plotting, spinning and bouncing, wicket-taking furiously. Stand-in captain Virender Sehwag decided to ask his spinners to open the bowling on the fifth morning and it paid off. Kumble and Harbhajan allowied Sri Lanka to add only 14 runs to their overnight score before they were all out for 249, losing by 259 runs.

The two main talking points of India's tour were the new umpire review system - allowing each team three unsuccessful requests per innings - and Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka's mystery spinner, though still a rookie at the Test level. India were outclassed by both. Sri Lanka batted them out of the contest in the first Test at the SSC, with four batsmen recording centuries in the first innings and India falling woefully short in their reply. There was no fightback in the second innings either and India eventually lost by an innings, Muttiah Muralitharan taking a ten-wicket haul, though they were clueless against Mendis as well - in particular his carrom ball. A blinder of a double-hundred by Virender Sehwag in Galle helped India draw level, despite Mendis' ten-wicket haul. Sri Lanka fought back in the final Test at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo with an improved batting performance to win the series 2-1. The famed Indian middle-order came a cropper against quality spin and the team on the whole was criticised for not using the review system intelligently, unlike their opponents. Mendis laid out his path to superstardom with 26 wickets in his debut series. India claimed the one-day series 3-2, thanks to the return of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who opted out of the Tests. He negotiated the spinners well and finished the series as the leading run-scorer.

Tests Sri Lanka 2 India 1
ODIs India 3 Sri Lanka 2


When India's batsmen stuttered on the opening day of the first Test in Ahmedabad, it was not an accurate indicator of what was to follow in the three-match series: a 2-0 win in India's favour, including two innings victories. There were several bits of trivia to come out of the series. In the drawn first Test on a lifeless track came in for much criticism, Tillakaratne Dilshan became the first Sri Lankan batsman to score a century in India since 1997 and Mahela Jayawardene recorded his sixth double-century. The second Test, in Kanpur, marked India's 100th victory. India's dominance in that game started at the top, with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir putting on a 233-run opening stand, the third-highest for India at the time. The greater show of authority, though, was yet to come. In the final Test in Mumbai: Sehwag scored 293 runs at a strike-rate of 115.35 to flatten Sri Lanka. In the one-day series that followed, it was the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch that made the most headlines. The dangerous, variable bounce on offer in the fifth match, which resulted in Dilshan being fiercely struck and the chairman of the BCCI's grounds and pitches committee being sacked, caused officials to abandon the game after 23.3 overs. The series also marked Sanath Jayasuriya's 20th year in cricket.

Tests India 2, Sri Lanka 0
ODIs India 3, Sri Lanka 1
Twenty20s India 1, Sri Lanka 1

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo