Plays of the day August 9, 2008

Vaas' vigil, and injuries galore

Chaminda Vaas frustrated India with a doughty 47 © AFP
The watchman
Chaminda Vaas had to trouble India at least once during this series, but they probably didn't think it would be with the bat. Sri Lanka's decision to send Vaas, with a Test hundred and 13 fifties, as a night-watchman, itself did injustice to his talents. A night-watchman, in cricket's definition, is "a non-batsman promoted up the order towards the end of a day's play with the idea of shielding a recognised batsman in the final overs." Until the penultimate delivery before stumps on day one, Vaas did just that, but on the second morning, he was every inch a top-order batsman. Beautiful drives, straight and square, were meshed excellently with a superb manner of leaving the good balls, and then, there were those authoritative pull shots. Ishant Sharma tried to unsettle Vaas with bouncers, but he swatted him for two boundaries. That was enough for Ishant not to try that again.

Problems behind the stumps
Dinesh Karthik's sloppy series with bat and glove - he dropped two catches at the SSC and one in Galle - earned Parthiv Patel his first Test since 2004. Parthiv didn't drop any catches but he missed a few regulation collections behind the stumps. He had a couple of nervous moments on the first evening and his problems continued today. In the 11th over, he didn't gather a ball cleanly, in the 13th, he made a mess of a regulation stop, in the 49th, he failed to gather one down the leg side, and in the 57th, he repeated the same mistake. Two of those slip ups were against pace and two spin.

A burst of energy in the field
Rohit Sharma, substituting for VVS Laxman, who twisted his ankle, pulled off two diving stops in the afternoon. With Harbhajan Singh continually giving the batsmen room to cut, India needed to be sharp on the off side. Rohit, a rare ambulatory fielder in a side of paraplegics, flung himself around twice in the 38th over. Kumar Sangakkara rocked back and hit one firmly and Rohit dived to his right to stop the ball. Three balls later, Vaas did the same and he stuck out his left to deny a single.

Seniors flounder
Unlike Rohit, India's senior statesmen had a tough time in the field. Rahul Dravid is India's only specialist catcher at first slip, but he failed to hold on to a tough chance offered by Sangakkara off Anil Kumble when he was on 34. Kumble was unlucky once again when Sachin Tendulkar, at backward square leg, could not hold on to an uncertain lunge from Vaas. Not only did Tendulkar drop the catch, he injured himself while trying to go for the rebound. Tendulkar then had to leave the field with his troublesome left elbow wrapped in an icepack.

An unhappy captain
Kumble hasn't done a very good job of trying to hide his views on the new umpire review system that is on trial this series, and after today, he might just give up altogether. Kumble asked for a review of an lbw decision against Thilan Samaraweera on the last ball of the 57th over. He bowled one back of length outside off stump and got it to slide in towards middle and off before it hit the inner part of the pad. Samaraweera looked gone for all money to the naked eye and on television, but third umpire Billy Doctrove backed Mark Benson. Virtual Eye showed the ball was skidding on rather than bouncing, hitting the top of middle stump, and in the dressing room, an injured Tendulkar put up his index finger. But the umpires clearly didn't think so. A peeved Kumble spoke to Benson before taking his cap in frustration.

One more man down
'And they all fall down' seemed to India's theme today. After Laxman and Tendulkar, it was Ishant's turn to take a fall. In the 73rd over, after being warned about running onto the danger area, Ishant fell to the ground while completing his follow-through, landing hard on his behind. The pain was immediately evident, but he had a word with Sourav Ganguly and went back to his mark. But Ishant soon pulled up clutching at his thigh and had to limp off the field.

The final injury of the day
Ishant's injury wasn't the last instance of the day. Parthiv copped a hit on his nose on the first ball of the 91st over. It was rather nasty and Parthiv hit the deck hard, clutching his face. The ball from Kumble spat up and fortunately, missed his left eye. Out ran India's physio, Nition Patel, who was the most in-demand Indian in Colombo, and he administered a face pack. Parthiv quickly had a swig of water and donned a helmet. India were forced to use their third substitute, Pragyan Ojha, and thankfully, there were no more additions to the injury list before stumps.

Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo