Plays of the day July 26, 2008

An odd couple, and Murali's guile

VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma kept the Sri Lankan spinners at bay in India's first innings with a last-wicket stand that stretched 18 overs © Getty Images

Shot of the day
Last-man Ishant Sharma batted rather superbly for his unbeaten 13 in India's first innings. His determination and application put top-order names such as Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Karthik to shame, and he supported VVS Laxman admirably, batting 54 minutes and 18 overs to form the highest Indian partnership in terms of deliveries faced. They made an odd couple - Laxman, always assured, graceful, almost offensively beautiful, and Ishant, gangly, unattractive, and thrusting forward to smother the ball, pads threatening to fall off with every scampered single. Ishant took 22 deliveries to get off the mark but once set, he played the shot of the session. Having seen off Ajantha Mendis and defended Muttiah Muralitharan excellently, Ishant drove his 49th delivery with all the skill of a seasoned opener. Murali tossed it wide and Ishant strode forward, foot firmly in place, head perfectly balanced, and drove the ball through the covers for four.

Catch of the day
There has been some criticism locally about Tillakaratne Dilshan's extended run in the Test side. Some argued that he went three years without a Test century (something he rectified yesterday) but what he brings to this Sri Lanka outfit in the field is perhaps unmatched. And that was in view for all to see today. Smartly placed at leg-slip, he pulled off a fine catch to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar. With Murali bowling from around the stumps Tendulkar swept a flat delivery down leg and Dilshan flung himself around to take a beauty. Reflex counts plenty in cricket, and Dilshan showed how sharp he is.

Combination of the day
Murali bowled superbly all day to run rings around India. He kept them guessing with his guile and nothing stood out more than his delivery to dismiss a well-set Gautam Gambhir. Eyes wide open, he send down a lovely flighted delivery around off stump. Gambhir ventured out of his crease with hopes of driving through the covers but was beaten in flight and turn. His back foot inched forward and that was all an alert Prasanna Jayawardene needed to complete a swift, smooth stumping. Check that down to Murali's beauty of a ball.

Controversy of the day
For the second time in two days Virender Sehwag was left to rue a decision. Yesterday he failed to curb his enthusiasm and today he perilously chose to pad up to Murali on the verge of lunch. The verdict isn't out on third umpire's decision yet. The ball pitched on leg stump, straightened, and Sehwag shouldered arms. The ball clipped the inner half of his front pad, which was facing the leg-stump line, and proceeded to hit the back pad in front of the stumps. It was tough one to call, but after a chat with third umpire Rudi Koertzen, Mark Benson ruled it out. Virtual Eye, the ball-tracking device, showed the path as if it hit the back pad first. Geoff Boycott, on air, reckoned it shouldn't have been given out. The debate continues ...

Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo