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The Bulletin by Amit Varma
December 21, 2005
Sri Lanka began their last innings of this tour 508 runs behind, on a pitch whose bounce and spin suited the Indian spinners, a template that beckoned a fourth-day finish. And yet they fought hard, despite being outplayed, and ended the day on 235 for 6, still 273 behind. The destination was probably beyond them, but they made a fist of it on the journey, never giving up, always scrapping hard, but simply being outplayed by a superior team.
The highlight of Sri Lanka's innings was a fifth-wicket partnership of 105 between Mahela Jayawardene and Tillekeratne Dilshan. They came together with the score on 96 for 4, and batted sensibly, mixing caution with opportunism and frustrating the Indian spinners. Jayawardene was compact, eschewing the flamboyant strokes he sometimes indulges in, a gatherer instead of a hunter. Dilshan, who had handled the spinners superbly in the first innings, played with an ease that belied the trouble some of the others had got themselves in.
It took a fast bowler to break the partnership, Ajit Agarkar pitching a yorker-length delivery to Jayawardene which was hit straight back to him. Jayawardene thought it was a bump-ball, but replays showed conclusively that his bat had hit the ground and the ball had gone straight off the bat (201 for 5).
Dilshan went shortly after, lured into a drive by a ball from Irfan Pathan that moved away just enough to get an edge through to the wicketkeeper (229 for 6). He walked back to the pavilion with an anguished slowness that reflected the intensity with which Sri Lanka had approached this game. Jehan Mubarak and Farveez Maharoof saw Sri Lanka safely through to the close of play, but three long sessions still loomed ahead.
India began the day on 287 for 9, extending their overnight lead by 29 runs before declaring. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh had added a total of 69 runs for the last wicket, demonstrating in the process that the pitch wasn't quite such a nightmare to bat on. Strokeplay was possible - Harbhajan made 40 off 51 - and so was stodge - Kumble made 29 off 68. It was a lesson Sri Lanka would surely have noted.
But mere application simply wasn't enough. Harbhajan opened the bowling with Pathan, and revelled in the conditions: he had enjoyed the bounce of the pitch in the first innings, and generated more of it here, and some turn, too, with the new ball.
Upul Tharanga batted with composure and assured footwork, and seemed up to the task of batting out sessions. Marvan Atapattu started uncertainly, and was lucky to be dropped at gully after an uppish cut off Pathan was put down by Kumble. He was eventually out stepping forward to Harbhajan and edging to the on side, where a diving Mohammad Kaif, from forward short leg, took an excellent catch (39 for 1).
Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga then added 45, and the manner of Sangakkara's dismissal, for 17, showed the cunning and experience of Kumble. Bowling round the wicket, he went very wide of the crease and bowled a superb ball to Sangakkara that, turning sharply into him, squared him up. He was plumb in front (84 for 2).
Tharanga was next, surprised by one that spun viciously into him, managing to just tamely glance it to leg slip, where Gautam Gambhir took a good catch (89 for 3). Thilan Samareewera didn't last long, edging a ball through to Kaif at forward short leg (96 for 4).
Then Jayawardene and Dilshan came together, and contrived to make sure the match would go into a fifth day. Sri Lanka might lose, but they would not capitulate.
Marvan Atapattu c Kaif b Harbhajan 16 (39 for 1)
Diving catch at forward short leg
Kumar Sangakkara lbw Kumble 17 (84 for 2)
Squared up by a legspinner bowled from very wide round the wicket
Upul Tharanga c Gambhir b Kumble 47 (89 for 3)
Glanced a ball that spun viciously into him to leg slip
Thilan Samaraweera c Kaif b Kumble 5 (96 for 4)
Edged to forward short leg
Mahela Jayawardene c and b Agarkar 57 (201 for 5))
Gave the bowler a return catch in the process of digging out a yorker
Tillekeratne Dilshan c Dhoni b Pathan 65 (229 for 6)
Drawn into driving an away-going delivery, edged behind
Amit Varma does odd jobs around Cricinfo, which includes writing the blog 23 Yards.Feeds: Amit Varma
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