|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Games||Mobile|
A four-man attack works when three of the individuals are on top of their games. When your main spinner has an off day and the other is callow, life can be a struggle
December 5, 2009
Unless Sri Lanka can show the sort of defiance that characterised their great escape at Lord's in 2006, India will wrap up this match at some point on Sunday and climb to the top of the Test tree. The No. 1 ranking, though, could have been captured today with some better bowling and that, in some ways, was a precursor of what awaits. Invariably, as South Africa found out on home soil earlier this year, staying top dogs is a lot more difficult than assuming the mantle.
India didn't bowl well, except in the second session where they took four wickets for just 60 runs. Even then, it was the seamers that did the damage with the scuffed-up old ball, and not the spinners, who were getting enough assistance from the pitch. Harbhajan Singh's only wicket of the day, if you can call it that, went into the file of evidence that should make the review system essential in all future Tests. Regardless of whether Tillakaratne Dilshan was foolish to keep padding the ball away, a batsman cannot be given out when the ball's not only missing a second set of stumps but also doing a big Fosbury Flop over them.
Harbhajan got dramatic turn at times but too often the line was awry, allowing the batsmen to leave the ball easily. Pragyan Ojha took two wickets off beautiful deliveries and should probably have had another, but was clearly less effective when bowling to the left-handers. Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga Paranavitana played him without too many alarms, and the experience will stand him in good stead for future tests.
With the expected wreckers rendered largely ineffective, MS Dhoni was left to rely on pace for breakthroughs. Sri Lanka were making unhurried progress when Sreesanth came back to get immediate reverse swing and thud one into Paranavitana's pads. And it was the spell that he subsequently bowled that built up the pressure to such an extent that Sri Lanka crumpled.
In the 10 overs before tea, they lost three for 11. Zaheer was in the thick of things, getting lift and movement, and varying his angles enough to tempt both Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera into pretty ordinary strokes. With Ojha then producing a peach to send back Angelo Mathews, an early finish seemed likely, but having crawled to 50 by the interval, Sangakkara came out intent on showing that his repertoire of attacking shots hadn't been left behind at home.
"You have a world-class batsman like Kumar Sangakkara around - they don't give it away too easily. He has halted things," Gary Kirsten, India's coach, said after the day's play. "I thought in the first session, we kept it really tight, did not give away unnecessary runs and put them under pressure to create opportunities after lunch.
"I am certainly happy. We thought if we can get six wickets today we would be happy. The second session was a very big one for us, we were able to pick up four wickets. The third session wasn't good enough as the guys were a little tired."
Attacking fields helped Sangakkara find the gaps with ease, but the manner in which India bowled to both Prasanna Jayawardene and Nuwan Kulasekara was desperately disappointing. Runs came easily for Prasanna, and after he survived a strong shout off the first ball he faced, Kulasekara was rarely troubled. Anil Kumble in his prime would have made short work of the tail, but neither Indian spinner showed much nous on a surface where the ball was turning and bouncing.
In an extended final session, there were 130 runs made in 32.1 overs, 83 of them off Sangakkara's bat. As with his innings in Hobart two years ago, it's unlikely to stave off a Sri Lanka defeat, but it gave India enough to think about. A four-man attack works fine when three of the individuals are on top of their games. But when your main spinner has an off day and the other is callow, life on Asian pitches can be a struggle. Thanks to the runs in the bank though, it probably won't be a futile one.
Kirsten hoped India would be able to wrap up the victory smoothly on Sunday and displace South Africa on top of the Test ranking. "It is something that we aspired to 18 months ago before we started against Australia," he said. "We wanted to become the best Test team in the world. So, it will be a great achievement."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
Plays of the day from the IPL qualifier between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians in Delhi
Safe & simple online money transfer. Apply Now!
Available now at Cricshop