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August 2, 2008
Exhale of the day
Anil Kumble had bowled 66.1 overs without getting a wicket in the series. After looking on remorsefully and tersely as Dinesh Karthik missed two catches in Colombo, and a couple of unsuccessful reviews in Galle, Kumble struck in the 76th over of Sri Lanka's innings. Chaminda Vaas tried to turn a straight one to leg and got a leading edge to Harbhajan Singh at short cover. Kumble followed the ball until it settled in Harbhajan's hands, then raised his own to the skies and held them there. The yell of relief was palpable, and more endearing was how his team-mates rushed to congratulate him. For good measure, Kumble took two more to finish the Sri Lankan innings.
Not since Aakash Chopra have India had a specialist close-in catcher, and Gautam Gambhir is not a natural short-leg fielder. A specialist knows when to get up, when to stay low, how to anticipate. Having missed two extremely tough chances no one would grudge, Gambhir reprieved Prasanna Jayawardene off Kumble, stretching out his hand to the left but failing to hold on. He then muffed an easy run-out chance as Mahela Jayawardene looked for a sharp single to retain strike. The ball was pushed to the right of Gambhir, who failed to collect it. In Test cricket half-chances need to be taken, but India were let down by Gambhir's sluggishness.
Greeting of the day
No one has stamped their authority over this Test more than Virender Sehwag. An unbeaten 201 in the first innings, out of an Indian total of 329, was followed by a 52-ball 50 to give them another excellent start in the second. Walking out post-lunch after Harbhajan and Kumble gave India a slender 37-run lead, Sehwag carried on from where he left off. Nuwan Kulasekara's first ball was whipped from middle and leg through midwicket, beating a diving Kumar Sangakkara on the boundary. Sehwag really was on an entirely different plane than his team-mates.
Shot of the day
His fielding wasn't top-drawer, but with the bat Gambhir was very efficient. Having gotten starts in both innings of the first Test and a steady 56 in the first innings here, Gambhir impressed during the second dig. He handled Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis confidently, and just after tea played a most pleasing cover drive off Murali for four. Staying adjacent to the line of the ball, he leaned forward into an into an inside-out drive, sending it racing across the fast outfield. Head still, bat flowing, feet to the pitch, it was one from the coaching manual.
CCC moment of the day
That's cool, calm and collected, by the way. Prasanna is arguably the best wicketkeeper around, having successfully kept to Murali for a couple years now, and this was a blink-and-miss moment. Gambhir perilously half-thrust his front pad against Mendis, and the bouncing offbreak crept between bat and pad. The ball pitched outside leg stump and turned sharply to hit Gambhir's back pad and then clip the off bail. It spun so much it would have been a great take even if it had not hit the stumps. But Prasanna watched it so closely, he collected it off the broken stumps. Talk about keeping your eye on the ball.