Plays of the day July 25, 2008

Cat got your tongue, boys?

As easy as the flick of a finger: Ajantha Mendis celebrates after removing Rahul Dravid, his first Test wicket © Getty Images

The band played on
The in-house band - trumpets, booming drums and all - started belting out tunes in the morning. But with empty plastic seats and chairs staring at you from every corner of the ground, it was hard to see who they were playing for. Unless Asian cricket heeds Geoffrey Boycott's suggestion and starts giving serious thought to day-night Tests, it will soon resemble the man who loves the sound of his own voice in an empty room.

Whetting the appetite
Unless you're Farokh Engineer or Michael Slater, the over before lunch, or any other interval, tends to be played out in circumspect fashion. That isn't Tillakaratne Dilshan's style though. He had 97 when Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl the final over of the first session, and a meaty sweep took him to his century from just 145 balls. After a hesitant start on the second evening, the next 80 runs had taken him a mere 90 balls.

Hook, line and sinker
Perhaps Virender Sehwag had read about Allen Stanford's winner-take-all Twenty20 game in the Caribbean and perhaps the band seduced him into thinking that he was playing in front of a rum-happy Trini Posse. Either way, there wasn't much thought involved in the top-edged hook off Nuwan Kulasekara that went straight to the man at square leg. In Twenty20 terms, 25 off 16 balls is sterling stuff. This, though, was a five-day game that needed to be saved.

I flick, you miss
Ajantha Mendis didn't make the sort of immediate impact that he had in the Asia Cup final, and when Gautam Gambhir dismissively swatted a full toss through midwicket for four in his opening over, you feared that all the hype and nervous excitement had got to the young man. We needn't have worried. The first ball of his fifth over was a ripper, the delivery now christened the carrom ball. It pitched on middle stump and crashed into the top of off after a hesitant spar from Rahul Dravid.

Cat got your tongue, boys?
One welcome consequence of the review system for umpiring decisions has been a marked reduction in the number of silly appeals. But that can be a two-edged sword as Sri Lanka found out on the third afternoon. Mendis got one to pitch on middle and leg, and go on to rap Sourav Ganguly on the pad. The fact that the ball then ricocheted onto the bat appeared to distract the Sri Lankans who didn't even appeal. A big let-off for Ganguly, albeit one that he couldn't take advantage of.

Ignore the old master at your peril
With such a fuss being made about the Mendis debut, some forgot that the man bowling from the other end came into the game with the small matter of 735 Test wickets. And as champions tend to do, Muttiah Muralitharan saved his best for one of the game's other legends. Sachin Tendulkar decided to shoulder arms to a doosra bowled from round the wicket, but a brief moment of hesitancy was to be his undoing. The ball took the inner edge of the bat as he was lifting it out of harm's way and then dropped onto the stumps. Clash of the titans won, and perhaps a Test match too.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo