India v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day July 18, 2010

Sri Lanka exploit toss advantage again

One of the underrated aspects of Sri Lanka's dominance at home is how they ruthlessly bat out oppositions after winning the toss

One of the rare certainties of this uncertain game is a visiting team's fate when it loses the toss in Sri Lanka. Unless something miraculous happens, the best the said team can achieve is a draw. One of the underrated aspects of Sri Lanka's dominance at home is how they ruthlessly bat out oppositions after winning the toss. They last lost a home Test after winning the toss in March 2001. The corresponding dates for Australia, South Africa and India are December 2008, December 2007 and April 2008. That run of Sri Lanka's isn't likely to end in this match either.

It is a simple and obvious plan, and is executed perfectly almost every time. The pitch is usually not very testing on the first day. The batsmen who look good to begin with go on to make big hundreds, the sapping humidity leaves tired opposition batsmen to play out the final hour on the second day, the pitch starts deteriorating, Muttiah Muralitharan is at them all the time, and they know they are in for a fight to save the match. The converse doesn't always hold: when Sri Lanka are forced to field first, the opposition batsmen are not nearly as efficient and ruthless.

The sight of losing a toss is all the more depressing for a side that is playing one of its weakest attacks in recent times, and is not particularly known for disciplined fielding. These are tough conditions for a fielding side to stay alert throughout the day, but high energy and alert fielding are friends visiting sides in Sri Lanka can do with. Chances rarely come their way, and they can't afford to let three half-chances to go through, like India did today. Kumar Sangakkara was missed on 65, Tharanga Paranavitana on 35 and 90, deep into the extended middle session.

On a tough day, the Indian bowlers came up short. Ishant Sharma was unlucky, in that none of the four edges he induced from Paranavitana went to hand, but he also went for 79 runs in 14 overs, and bowled four no-balls. He didn't seem to find the in-between length of his earlier spells. "By his own admission, he could have avoided certain type of deliveries," said Gary Kirsten, India's coach, of Ishant's effort. "He bowled well in the last spell and hopefully he will continue to build his confidence as he goes along."

That the debutant Abhimanyu Mithun was the best bowler on display told the story, and he was strictly steady. "I thought Mithun bowled superbly for his first Test, great to see a really athletic young bowler," Kirsten said. "He certainly showed he is capable of doing well at this level. He bowled at decent pace and good areas for most of the day so I am pretty impressed."

The 7-2 leg-side fields for Pragyan Ojha showed the kind of confidence the spinner drew from the captain. Harbhajan Singh, recovering from a flu, was clearly suffering from weakness, seen bent and holding onto his knees after overs, had to go off the field, and was reduced to bowling well outside the off stump of the left-hand batsmen. That Harbhajan at 70 to 80% is a better choice than the next spinner in the squad is not a healthy sign for India at all.

The simple plan worked down to every detail for Sri Lanka, except for Kumar Sangakkara's soft dismissal - he perhaps didn't realise the presence of a deep midwicket and pulled straight into his lap - and the rain that gave them only 68 overs of play on the first day.

The pitch gave an ominous reminder of its existence about half-an-hour before rain forced a premature end to the day's play. Ishant, who had bowled through the day without much help, got one to nip back in towards Paranavitana - not merely hold its line - and hit the batsman in the ribs. The puff of dust there was a tell tale sign that batting will get significantly tougher. Rain and a rare collapse permitting, the Indian batsmen, after having fielded for close to 140 overs, will have a tricky period before stumps tomorrow to start their quest to not fall behind in the series.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2010, 20:03 GMT

    @ Poor Subash... No wonder If this says some 1 from Aus, but you from india. really disappointment, you believe sachin is the greatest ever batsman, but if we check the stats, ponting is a Far better hero than saching, With 3 world cups,1 WC runners up, 2 ICC trophy's and lot more things. Is that saching have any world cup? any ICC trophy? but he's still the great ever batsman. so its clear that 1 person cant make all the stuff for a team. we all know that. but poor indian fans not. Tell you what brother. you cant make even semi's in 2011 WC. its so clear. so start to cheer us, WE USED TO MAKE AT LEAST SEMI'S IN ICC EVENTS.

    god luck for them. anyway, " Sachin Tendulkar was snared by Muttiah Muralitharan as Sri Lanka took control of the first Test in Galle after declaring at 520 for 8 in the first innings"

  • Rogue777 on July 20, 2010, 4:18 GMT

    Mr Subash so tell me is this the same ICC that said Harbajan; McGrath and so many others bends their arms over the earlier specified legal limit? Please try not to make a complete fool of yourself when posting these comments. So tell me was Tendulkar wrong in his assessment when he called Murali a legend? Or by the way tell me how was it that we were the Runners-up in 2007 World Cup in West Indies when you guys got knocked out in the 1st round if we can not play away from home. Or by the way how did we ever manage to be Finalists and Semifinalists receptively in England and Westindies in the last two T20 WCs. The reason for our test recoard being not great in Aus and SA is because we do not get any long 5 test series in those countries. Thus making it difficult for us to familiarize ourselves with those conditions in the given short time. Tell me how was the AWAY record of India 28 years after getting their test status? I bet it was far worse than Sri Lankas.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 22:27 GMT

    @klobania. I amn't the one decided that murali is chucking. That's from ICC umpires. You never answered my question. If you fell we don't have murali class (anyway we don't think murali is class spinner). That kinda class spinner can't able to win a single match in india against india. Answer my question / shut your mouth.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 22:18 GMT

    @kiwirocket-- NO Aussies are showing much interest to watch Australia Vs Pak Test. I amn't blaming pak side. But still they are in transition phase. They will lose some more games to get the stable side. But without knowing much about cricket, stating ICC rules are wrong means that's so pathetic. Anyway kiwis are nowhere near to India.

  • Vimalan on July 19, 2010, 13:26 GMT

    @KiwiRocker no one denies SL played superb today. But its so childish to blame ICC because India had one poor day, that too first day on the tour. First of all, you have to wait till the end of the test match and the series to atleast make a comment. Even if India loses this series, that does not take away what they have achieved in the past few years where they beat all teams in the world if not all series. And you must be the only person who will say India is the most boring team to watch that too when we have players like Sachin, VVS in the team. BTW, India lost to Pak way back in 2006 not recently. India won the last test series against Aus in 2008. If Aus is the no 1 side, then why did they lose to India ?

  • Vimalan on July 19, 2010, 13:20 GMT

    @randikaayya, India does not like UDRS because it is not the perfect system yet. But how convenient of you when you say India simply won few test matches because they didn't use UDRS. That's utter rubbish. India played superb test cricket for the past couple of years to reach the top and you can't simply take the credit away. Moreover my answer was to that guy who mentioned that SL never give any excuses. You didn't answer my question on that.

  • ganesh on July 19, 2010, 12:57 GMT

    Its big time that the Indian selectors bring back genuine swing bowlers like Irfan, Balaji or Praveen to the test squad because our so called fast bowlers like Ishant and RP Singh are not good enough

  • Bobby on July 19, 2010, 12:40 GMT

    Journalists should be unbiased.I find it mildly amusing that how badly poor Indian fans continue defending Indian team.Tendulkar has won nothing of note. India does not have a single bowler who can take 5 wickets in a match let alone 20.Sehwag is one track bully.Gambhir is probably the only shinning light for India. Dravid and Laxman are expired. Indian team's average age is like what??35? It's hilarious how Indian fans made Poor Irfan Pathan a Wasim Akram. Where is Pathan anyway? Lets get real.IPL has ruined Indian cricket and Indian team current bunch is full of over rated over hyped players. What did India do in T20? ICC champs trophy? Indian fans over hype themselves for full four years until every time India loses in WC.Reminds me of bit like English football team!.I am a very old reader of cric Info and this biased article has really disappointed me.We should appreciate Sangakkara's superb innings and cherish great Muralitharan instead of making excuses about India's performance!

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 12:29 GMT

    Seriously to all the Srilankan's who think there team is great as well, wake up call buddy, look at the rankings, we trump you in both versions of the game ODI's and Tests, you are nowhere close to us. Also the only reason you guys can say shit right now, is because our reserve fast bowlers suck, and harbhajan is half fit. Also, remember this next game there will no murali in your test team then we will see how great your bowling team is.

    Lets not even start about batting the lankan batting team or hell any batting team in test cricket cant compare to India, you can check the records in the last year alone. Leave anything else out.

  • indraneel on July 19, 2010, 12:15 GMT

    Really guys, is this the first article about a crucial toss! Where did this blame game start? This is not the best of Siddarth Monga, but the hidden hostility is just pouring out. Where has India not given adequate praise in an opponent's victory? As a captain, Dhoni has been very professional and free from controversy in the post-match presentations and press meets. Where did you get the idea of excuses? @STres- you have a problem and that's why you think Indians have to learn from you. With 1.2 Billion people, we do a lot more than play cricket. Have you been reading the newspapers ? Good to hear you like Sachin and Co. I am quite fond of Mahela myself. India has not given any excuses. Some SL fans are finding some to relieve their frustrations. Go ahead and jerk off, the record will still stand- you haven't won a single test in India.

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