Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day July 20, 2010

Sri Lanka's bowlers liven up Test

The Sri Lankan bowling unit showed in one session that it is better equipped in these conditions than its opposition

Sri Lanka have done their best to keep this match, which has lost close to 114 overs of play in three days, alive. Even when India were threatening to come back to level terms in the first session, the hosts maintained a run-rate of four. Rangana Herath and Lasith Malinga provided some unexpected entertainment with the bat and, more importantly, ruled out India's victory. Then they made an aggressive declaration, leaving Herath unbeaten 20 short of a maiden Test century. It was later that they did the most telling damage.

The Sri Lankan bowling unit showed in one session that it is better equipped in these conditions than its opposition. It was a gripping session of play post tea, also facilitated by a poor attempt at a second run by Rahul Dravid.

Lasith Malinga came roaring back into Test cricket, attacking the stumps, getting swing, bowling full, removing Gautam Gambhir with the second ball of the innings and obsessively chasing the toes and ribs of Virender Sehwag. Muttiah Muralitharan, who would have found it tough to not get emotional with the grand reception he got when he walked on to the field, put behind him the lean run of form and performed like a champion. If there was any fear that his farewell Test might be a distraction, it was squashed when he got Sachin Tendulkar's wicket.

The final 42 minutes of the day, after Dravid and Tendulkar were dismissed within 33 runs of each other, and India were still 320 short of saving the follow-on, brought drama with almost every delivery. Only 8.4 overs were bowled, but Malinga's long run-up was full of promise.

Virender Sehwag, already 67 off 73 including a majestic six off Murali, was made to dig out yorkers just to save his toes, forget his wicket. He was made to get the bat up in time to protect his ribs, but also keep the ball down, lest it flew to the accurately placed leg gully or short leg. Even when he managed to expertly bisect the keeper and the leg gully, he got just the single to the fine leg placed for the top edge. The one yorker Malinga missed, bowling a low full toss, Sehwag crashed it through the covers.

Against Murali he fared better, reading the variations well, despite claiming to the contrary in his column. He even cut from in front of the stumps. In perhaps the most watchful 42 minutes of his batting since Adelaide, Sehwag scored 18 runs off 25 balls, at a mere mortal's pace.

Murali troubled VVS Laxman much more, who didn't read the doosra at all. On one occasion Laxman left alone one that pitched within the stumps, expecting it to turn down leg, and then saw it bounce over his off and middle stump. Another doosra he played at, and was beaten by what was almost a legbreak. He was lucky it missed the off stump. Bowling with four men around the bat, he kept pitching it on around the same spot, turning it either way.

Just as the clock approached the scheduled close of play at 5.45 pm, the sun peeped out of the clouds and shone as brightly as it had through the last week to heighten the drama. The play went deep into the evening, Yuvraj Singh must have waited anxiously, the Sri Lankans tried their darnedest to pick one more wicket before stumps, but India just about hung on. The series was alive, there was tension around. It can do with more of it.

Rangana Herath later said Sri Lanka can force a result even if India avoid a follow-on. "They [Sehwag and Laxman] batted very well," he said. "But at the same time, the bowlers were bowling really well, so if either of them had had done one mistake, it would have cost them their wicket. We expect to do the same thing tomorrow." Amen to that.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rogue777 on July 21, 2010, 14:06 GMT

    chokkashokka are you for REAL! An Indian calling Sri Lankan pitches Dust Bowls and flat tracks. Just check the stats again for what countries has more drawn tests Sri Lanka or India? And as for Dust Bowls either you are a complete idiot who needs to learn what that word means or you really kidding yourself because Indians are the ones famous for dust bowls. The point of this series kiddo is to prove how much a sham and joke Indians number 1 rank in tests is. By the way as for stroke play I think Malinga and Herath outplayed the Indian batsmen in that department as well!

  • Thank You on July 21, 2010, 5:47 GMT

    blah ..blah...this test match is a boring draw...the only highlight of this game is the exciting stroke-play of the Indian batsman - they're going at almost 5 an over in the dust bowls that SL prepares for each test. What is the point of this test series exactly?

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    Overall a good match for TEST CRICKET :D!!

  • Gihan on July 21, 2010, 3:21 GMT

    Here we go again, the #1 team hoping and praying for a draw, someone said fireworks from shewag - now this is a joke, my dear friend he is fighting for survival most of his scoring shots were life saving or toe saving attempts that went for 4, he will also score because SL is setting very attacking fields.

    Someone said that SL never won a test match in India - well yes the man of the match on many occasions are the Indian Umpires - recently with neutral umpires, the situ is better but the pressure and indian bribery gets to them too.

    Conditions in Galle better than South India, temperature better that most cities in India (people don't die here of heat stroke) my dear friends no excuses we are getting bloody tired of all this rubbish talk, you have your best 11 players available (out of 1,200 ml population) we have our best available player (out of 20 Ml population) let us now play cricket - you win, we say bloody good - we win, please say bloody good - no rubbish talk.

  • Narayanan on July 21, 2010, 2:00 GMT

    its a well known fact that India's bowling is weaker than bangladesh. But the surprise factor is that how at one of point so many bowlers were knocking the national team and now noone worthy is around. Also what happened to all the spinners in India. In the MRF bowling academy are they not teaching anyone how to spin the ball?? Am baffled with such inconsistencies. Probably some process needs to be in place to look into this point. Coming to this match, most likely it is going to be a draw unless India loses it by itself. But am sure Indian batting can save the fort for sure. Match is already dead with a days play washed out.

  • Ganapathy on July 21, 2010, 0:32 GMT

    So back to same old story. When Indian bowlers operate, it is flat pitch no help to seamers and spinners. But when the opposition bowls better, Oh the condition is totally changed and now every thing is in favor of bowlers.

    Next when Sachin Tendulkar fails, the whole Indian team fails. He is a master batsman and this time the bowler got one unplayful ball and surprised Sachin. Other batsmen should learn to take responsibilities. Has Sachin delivered when India wants? Same old stories. Have we not heard / read this million times.

    India is not worth its place in ranking; let us accept we have a better team compared to Bangladesh, Zimbavee, etc.

  • Cric on July 20, 2010, 23:30 GMT

    indians are scoring at over 4.5 an over, which belies the assertion that SL bowling has been good. in fact, indian bowling's overall economy was a tad better than this.

  • Dre on July 20, 2010, 21:48 GMT

    Can't see too far past a draw, pity that the rain was stole so much. Must say there is a little oomph more in the pitch than in most of the other subcontinental pitches of late. The little bounce makes a diff. Sehwag once again proving why HE (and not Ghambir) is the best batsman in the world at the moment. He really seems to be on a different level from his peers. Malinga looks pretty good and Murali is unlucky not to have VVS. Sharma bowled better for a spell but he needs to learn that one good spell per match is not up to standard and the fact that he fell away to the end + no support, saw Herath (who played beautifully) and Malnga cash in. Must say the Ind fielding was too poor...again and in such conditions, 1 needs to hold chances.

  • Yasir on July 20, 2010, 21:29 GMT

    Whatever the result may be, the #1 test team could not bowl out the Sri Lankan team AND were hit for 164 runs on the 7th and 8th wicket partnerships. Moreover, the top 5 have not even managed to score as much on the same pitch. For sure, it's pretty clear this time around India isn't playing Bangladesh, or on their home soil.

  • Prashant on July 20, 2010, 21:25 GMT

    @ vibh_ch....why do you just blindly attack players without looking at stats to back you up? The last three years Harbhajan has the following stats: year 2008 13 matches 63 wickets year 2009 6 matches 29 wickets year 2010 4 matches 12 wickets

    I dont mind you having your opinion and not liking a player but please don't just come here and say he hasn't done anything......

  • No featured comments at the moment.