Indians flattened by three centuries
Sri Lanka Board President's XI 432 for 5 (Tharanga 110, Kandamby 101, Samaraweera 101, Thirimanne 66) v Indians
A strong Board President's XI gave the Indians a welcome as harsh as Colombo's humidity. Upul Tharanga ripped into all their bowlers, nearly reaching his century in the first session. Lahiru Thirimanne played the foil to Tharanga's assault, and Thilina Kandamby continued attacking, providing the visitors zero respite despite two quick wickets in the middle session. Thilan Samaraweera struggled a bit, but he too joined in the fun in the final session, taking the score well past 400.
The Indian bowlers, at least two of whom will be playing in the Galle Test, struggled to create pressure, and whatever little was created wasn't maintained. That an attack missing Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth would find it tough was hardly unexpected, and the batsmen tried and demoralised them in a deliberate ploy. Only four maidens were bowled all day, and 22 no-balls, 57 fours and 6 sixes summed up India's inauspicious start to the tour. None of the three centurions' dismissals were set up; all three got out playing adventurous shots.
The only time the Indians had any sort of ascendancy was when Ishant Sharma, the most impressive of the bowlers, got Tharanga to edge one, but that ascendancy ended mid-air. Rahul Dravid dropped the catch at first slip, and Tharanga went on to score 98 more runs.
Tharanga's brief seemed clear: don't let any of the bowlers settle. Captain Samaraweera had done his job by winning the toss after a rain delay of close to one hour. Tharanga took over, driving the first ball of the match through the covers for four. Ishant Sharma troubled him in the first half hour: he could do that for a considerable period of time as both the batsmen scored runs almost exclusively in boundaries, and Tharanga faced all but three deliveries in Ishant's first five overs.
Ishant extracted some bounce from the slow track, inducing the edge in the fifth over of the day. Abhimanyu Mithun was steady, but hardly troubled the batsmen with either pace or bounce. The introduction of spin gave clear insight into the batsmen's mindsets.
Amit Mishra, introduced in the 10th over, started off short and wide, and was cut away by Tharanga for four. In the same over, Tharanga danced down the track twice, beautifully flicking one of them past mid-on, moving on to 33 runs off 40 balls, only one of which he ran for.
Mithun came back for a second spell, and Virender Sehwag bowled two overs before Pragyan Ojha was introduced. He too found Tharanga charging at him, scoring seven off his first over. Mishra, largely ineffective with the slow turn that the pitch offered, got some dip in the 26th over, his ninth. Tharanga responded with a six over long-off and a four so straight it took Mishra along with it. Tharanga was on 95 off 99 then, and Mishra's figures read 9-0-57-0 including four no-balls.
Thirimanne got into the swing of things, lofting Ojha over midwicket to reach his 50, off 67 balls. Ishant came back before lunch, immediately producing an edge from Thirimanne, one that flew wide of second slip. India's first session on the tour had hardly anything to write home about except for Ishant, who too struggled with no-balls, bowling seven in the day.
With 164 on the board by lunch, the openers missed out on grinding the bowling further. Tharanga lost his concentration after the century, top-edging a half-hearted sweep, and Thirimanne bat-padded a flighted delivery from Ojha. Two wickets fell for 21 runs, but between those dismissals, Kandamby had hit Ojha for four, four and six in one over - over mid-on, wide of mid-on, and over midwicket. By the time Ojha was taken off, he had given away 62 in his 11 overs, including two no-balls. More overstepping was to follow from him too.
Samaraweera didn't start off as well as the other three batsmen. Both Mishra and Ojha managed to beat him in the flight. Edges flew wide of slips, or fell short of them, a leading edge fell short too, and an arm ball was kept out precariously late. Kandamby played breezily on the other end, except a jab at Ojha that didn't reach forward short leg, and a top edge that didn't reach fine leg.
By tea, Kandamby had reached 57 off 59, and Samaraweera, who took major share of the strike, 47 off 90. After the break Kandamby attacked more, and Samaraweera some more. From 54 off 112, he hit 31 off the next 13 deliveries, hitting Ojha and Mishra to all parts of the ground.
Kandamby, like Tharanga, didn't capitalise on his century, getting stumped by Mishra. Samaraweera slowed down then with the spinners bowling a leg-stump line to him, but Prasanna Jayawardene was gifted long hops by both spinners to get going. Post his century, Samaraweera got out playing a slog sweep, only 14 runs and one wicket came in the final 7.2 overs, but that was hardly any consolation for the visitors.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo