Sri Lanka dominate in run-fest
Sri Lanka reached a seemingly invincible position in the second Test on another day of toil for the Indian bowlers with their two batting mainstays, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, achieving individual landmarks on a placid track against a spineless attack that has left India's batsmen with another Test to save.
Sangakkara maintained his aggressive approach in the morning session, equally ruthless against the seamers and the spinners, while Jayawardene was more sedate to begin with, offering his partner much of the strike. The start was almost perfect for the home side: Sangakkara, whose confidence was evident in his standing well outside the crease, drove Abhimanyu Mithun through either side of the pitch for fours off the first two deliveries.
The Indian seamers had erred in length on the first day by bowling consistently short and they tried to make amends on the second, getting the batsmen to play forward. Both Mithun and Ishant Sharma pitched the ball fuller but, with no assistance from the conditions, they had little hope of making inroads. Too often they strayed on to the pads, to be flicked and driven through the on side; Sangakkara, especially, was unforgiving of any half-volley that came his way. He did drop his guard on occasion, though, edging one just after second slip had been removed by MS Dhoni - one of three consecutive boundaries off Mithun that helped him reach 150.
Jayawardene, who continued his prolific run at the SSC, opened up against Ishant, who served some juicy deliveries on the pads to be taken for three fours - through fine leg, midwicket and over mid-on. While there was a bit more bounce on offer for the spinners, who targeted a couple of rough patches on the track and attacked with more close-in fielders, the pair used their feet to ensure there weren't many quiet periods. Sangakkara employed the sweep and kept piercing the off-side field with cuts and dabs, and both batsmen charged the spinners to clear mid-on and midwicket.
As he approached his third double-century at the SSC, Sangakkara went after Ojha, heaving him from outside off over midwicket and sweeping him twice to collect four fours in five balls. He reached the milestone streakily, edging Harbhajan just past slip, but found Rahul Dravid soon after lunch off Virender Sehwag to ease India's agony.
Jayawardene's knock lacked the imperious demeanour of his captain's. It was built - especially after Sangakkara's dismissal - on steady accumulation and calculated strokeplay. With Thilan Samaraweera capitalising on the width provided by the spinners to find boundaries frequently through the off side, he tempered his approach, opting to nudge the ball around for singles and reserve his strength for the bad balls. When Harbhajan bowled short and wide, he forced him through the covers and when gifted with full delivery on the pads, he swept it past fine leg.
A punch through the covers brought up his tenth century at the SSC - the most by a player at a venue, surpassing Don Bradman's nine tons in ten matches at the MCG. Once that landmark was achieved, he stepped up with a couple of delightful inside-out drives over extra cover and a huge six wide of midwicket while Samaraweera eased to another half-century.
Such was India's helplessness that their most experienced bowler, Harbhajan, had to resort to bowling down the leg side to contain the batsmen. Ojha followed suit but with their expertise playing the sweep and the ease with which they made room to execute the cuts, the batsmen were in complete control. In the end, it was Jayawardene's tired chip to midwicket that prompted a declaration, and gave Harbhajan his first wicket in the series, after conceding 245 runs and bowling 449 deliveries.
On the two previous occasions the teams played at the SSC, Sri Lanka amassed a 600-plus score each time and won by an innings. But forcing a win in these conditions will be an arduous task. An indication of the challenge that lay ahead came from the smooth start by India's openers Sehwag and M Vijay against a line-up missing the match-winners from Galle. There were a couple of moments of discomfort caused by the extra pace and bounce of the Sri Lankan seamers but the boundaries flowed from Sehwag's blade, allowing the visitors to enjoy a rare phase of dominance on a so-far disappointing tour.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo