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July 26, 2008
Sri Lanka won the first Test in a little over three days and Mahela Jayawardene said he was surprised by the way India folded up. Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis shared 19 wickets between them as India slumped to an innings-and-239-run defeat.
"When you see that [Indian] batting line-up you think these guys have a lot of experience, that they will buckle down and really give you a fight," Jayawardene said. "We were prepared for that. The way we managed to bowl them out in two sessions was a surprising factor. But the credit should go to Murali and Mendis because they bowled really well in tandem. We put a lot of pressure on their batsmen and kept asking questions all the time."
Sixteen wickets fell on day four as India collapsed to their third-heaviest defeat in Tests. At the start of the day, India were struggling to avoid the follow-on - at 159 for 6 in reply to Sri Lanka's 600 - and Jayawardene said his side was focussed on taking the four wickets early. "There was a little bit of resistance because [VVS] Laxman batted well. We had to be very patient. Once we enforced the follow-on we knew we had to be patient again because the wicket wasn't doing that much. We were a bit lucky with a couple of early wickets after that Murali bowled brilliantly and Mendis kept the pressure going and picked up a few wickets at the other end."
Jayawardene said that with Mendis. who picked up best figures - 8 for 132 - for a Sri Lankan debutant - maintaining pressure at one end, Murali was free to attack the Indians. "He [Murali] doesn't have to really control the runs as well as attack but now he can focus on just attacking and picking up wickets which we want. We kept the pressure on and blocked a few run-scoring opportunities. Credit should go to both these guys for it is not an easy batting line up to bowl at. They did a very good job."
Murali praised Mendis's efforts and said the younger bowler had more variation than he had when he started out. "[Chaminda] Vaas was a wonderful bowler," said Murali. "He did the same thing like what Mendis did today by keeping the runs down and taking wickets. We both have taken more than 1000 wickets in Test cricket and more than 900 wickets in ODIs. I think Mendis will be another bowler who will strengthen the bowling. He is not just another ordinary bowler."
Mendis said he hadn't been nervous before his Test debut. "I got from the senior players and having Murali bowling from the other end and giving me good advice," Mendis said. "I got a lot of support from my captain. He was not afraid to toss the ball to me. If the captain had so much of confidence in me how can I feel nervous? Of course I didn't expect to end up with such a haul of wickets in my first Test. There weren't any particular batsmen who struggled against my bowling everybody played well against me. I think I was rewarded because I bowled in the right places. Taking [Rahul] Dravid's wicket in the first innings gave me a lot of pleasure," he said.
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