Malinga, Murali leave Sri Lanka sniffing win
India 276 (Sehwag 109, Murali 5-63) and 181 for 5 trail (Tendulkar 84, Laxman
9*,) Sri Lanka 520 for 8 by 63 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In the last series in 2008, M&M maimed India. Today, another M&M combination, Murali and Malinga, have sucker-punched India. Muttiah Muralitharan collected his 67th five-for to help Sri Lanka enforce the follow-on before Lasith Malinga knocked the fight out of India by removing both Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid near the end of the day. India, never great in batting out draws, were left with an uphill task if they are to get out of jail at Galle.
Muralitharan broke the back of India's resistance in the first innings by taking out MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, after Virender Sehwag's soft dismissal, and forced India to bat again. Malinga took over the demolition job in the second. India had seemingly recovered from their tea-time score of 68 for 2 as Dravid and Tendulkar settled the nerves with a fine, risk-free 119-run partnership. Tendulkar, especially, showcased delicious timing but both were ambushed by Malinga.
Dravid fell, flicking a full delivery on his legs from Malinga straight to leg gully - he couldn't believe what he had done - and Tendulkar was trapped in front by a Malinga special. Malinga released a full delivery with his round-arm action from around the middle and leg stump line. The ball rushed through almost straight towards the leg stump. The shiny side was outside but it didn't reverse to the on side. Neither did it swing out. It kept going straight and Tendulkar tried a flick but ended up pushing across the line. The ball went past the waft and struck him full on the pad in front of leg stump. Gone!
Things turned dire for India when Murali lured Yuvraj to edge a flighted off break from round the stumps low to first slip at the stroke of stumps.
It was Malinga who had struck the first early blow in the second innings. He reminded Gautam Gambhir of the first-innings dismissal with two inswingers before slanting one away and catching the edge. And things turned grim for India when Chanaka Welegedara induced Sehwag to slash to left of backward point where Mahela Jayawardene reached out to take a superb catch.
The story of the morning was Murali, who was puzzlingly introduced rather late in the first session but didn't miss the opportunity to stamp his presence. Dhoni and Yuvraj had shared a 74-run partnership when Murali showcased his class. First up, he swallowed Dhoni with his signature offbreak: Dhoni stumbled forward, saw the ball not only drift away from him but also dip rapidly on him and desperately lunged out in the end to defend. The ball broke back in sharply to find the fatal bat-pad gap. Murali then removed Yuvraj much in the same way as he did in the second innings and went on to wrap up the tail without much fuss.
The turning point in India's first innings had been the dismissal of Sehwag. It had taken Sehwag just ten deliveries to move from his overnight 85 to this 20th Test ton. However, he fell chasing a short and wide delivery from Welegedara. If Sehwag's dismissal was lame, Laxman's appeared tame as he fell top-edging a half-hearted pull shot of Malinga. However, it was a well-worked out dismissal. Right through his stay Sri Lanka peppered him with bouncers. Laxman initially stayed out of trouble but the bouncers kept coming and his resolve was finally broken. It was a short delivery around chest-high just outside off and Laxman ended up playing a weak swat-pull.
This is where Sri Lanka loosened the grip a little as Yuvraj stepped up and took control. Sangakkara chose to keep on Welegedara, who was in the midst of an ordinary spell, for a long time and delayed the entry of Muralitharan. In fact he had started the day with Welegedara and Angelo Mathews. A combo of Murali and Malinga could have been more useful not only at the start of the day but definitely against Yuvraj, new to the crease, rather than the combination of Welegedara and part-timer Dilshan.
In the meantime, Yuvraj played himself in with a few delightful hits. The stand-out shot was a nonchalant lofted drive over long-off against Rangana Herath: Yuvraj sashayed down the track and just wafted it up and over. He donned a positive outlook today and was constantly on the look-out for runs. He chipped Herath over mid-on, cut him through cover point and unfurled quite a few sweep shots. Things were looking good for India until Murali was brought on. And then he showed who was the boss in Galle.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo