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November 24, 2009
There was little for Sri Lanka to feel happy about. One of the rare moments of celebration came when Muttiah Muralitharan dived to pick a spectacular catch to get rid of Gautam Gambhir, who was marching towards his double century. But Gambhir and Virender Sehwag had already heavily damaged the morale of the Sri Lankan bowlers with a brilliant 233-run opening partnership. The most disheartening aspect, probably, for the Sri Lankans was the slowness of the pitch, which gave the batsmen enough time to pick the gaps.
"It was very tough to stop the flow of runs," Trevor Bayliss, Sri Lanka's coach, said after the day's play. "You only had to be a fraction short and the batsmen could go on the backfoot and play an attacking shot. If you pitched it six inches further up they could come forward and drive. The scope for error wasn't large."
Still, Bayliss admitted that the pitch had good turn and Murali was the lone bowler to extract appreciable spin. In the morning, the visitors had named three specialist spinners in Murali, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, with the belief that the pitch would start cracking in the latter half of the game. It was not a wise decision as the Indian batsmen comfortably tackled the Sri Lankan trio, giving them no chance to dominate.
"The wicket is very slow although there's turn," Bayliss said. But he felt the decision to field three spinners wasn't a wrong one. "Maybe we could have done that [played another fast bowler instead of the third spinner] considering the two pace bowlers were our best bowlers today. They were able to bowl nice and straight and made it a bit more difficult to make runs. You never know. You have three spinners and you need to look forward to play well in this Test.
"It was difficult for all three spinners and they stuck at it and kept trying things.Today wasn't their day."
In that first hour in the morning when Sehwag was being circumspect, Sri Lanka's new-ball pair of Chanaka Welegedara and Angelo Mathews exerted some control over the Indians but after than none of the bowlers pitched consistently on one spot or tried out different variations.
Sehwag believed that it allowed the Indians to relax and go after the spinners. He cited the example of Mendis, who had troubled the Indians last year in Sri Lanka, when he was still an unknown entity. "In Sri Lanka he bowled in good areas and bowled different deliveries and that is why we struggled," Sehwag said. "But we know his game well now and we tackled him better."
Sehwag was lucky after he was dropped on the third ball he faced, from Welegedara, but Mahela Jayawardene at first slip, towards whom the ball travelled, was distracted by the diving wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene. Though Bayliss didn't blame anyone over the incident he pointed out the match, probably, might have headed in another direction instead of Sri Lanka staring at a strong possibility of bowling only once in the match.
"That would have been nice to take that catch as it could have changed the complexion of the game. But they also have a quality batting line-up, so you never know. We could have put the next guy under pressure and taken a few wickets like we did in the first Test."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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