Blazing Sehwag leads Indian response
India 180 for 2 (Sehwag 97*, Tendulkar 40*) trail Sri Lanka 425 (Samaraweera 137, Sangakkara 75, Ojha 4-115, Ishant 3-72) by 245 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Virender Sehwag led an aggressive Indian response to Sri Lanka's challenging score on a competitive pitch on the second day at the P Sara Oval. Thilan Samaraweera thwarted India's quest for early wickets with an assured century amid testing spells from Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha, but Sehwag's counter-attack, with some fortune, helped the visitors even things out.
The signs were encouraging for Sri Lanka at the start of the Indian innings with the seamers finding swing while their opponents had produced virtually none. Lasith Malinga targeted the blockhole and hurled a couple of sharp bouncers, while Chanaka Welegedara got the ball to dart in. But the helpful conditions did not produce the edginess Sri Lanka would have hoped from the Indian openers, as Sehwag settled in with three consecutive boundaries - through point, mid-on and over midwicket - off Welegedera, who had dismissed him twice in the Galle Test.
The ploy then had been to frustrate Sehwag with short deliveries outside off until he finally chased one to be caught at slip or gully. Angelo Mathews tried the same from round the wicket at the SSC and failed, and Welegedera's persistence in this Test was countered with calculated force. Vacant spaces were picked in the leg side with Sehwag slamming Welegedera over midwicket and square-leg for a clutter of boundaries. When they were pitched a touch wider, Sehwag flat-batted through mid-off. Amid the targeted assault against Welegedera - struck for nine fours - Sehwag braved a thorny spell from Malinga, who ruffled him with the bouncer and kept him on his toes with the deceptive slower one. But it was against Malinga that he played his best shot of the day - a punched back-foot drive past the umpire.
The hosts did have their chances, however. They dismissed M Vijay and Rahul Dravid after both had begun positively, gave Sehwag a reprieve and came close to snaring Sachin Tendulkar. Vijay got going with a couple of crisp boundaries off Welegedara but spooned Malinga to extra-cover soon after. Dravid had looked his most comfortable this series, driving Malinga down the ground and through midwicket, and creaming Welegedara through the off side but his innings ended in a manner similar to the SSC. He played from the crease to a length ball, and was surprised as the ball skidded on to trap him in front. Sri Lanka missed their biggest opportunity when Angelo Mathews spilled a return catch off Sehwag, and Tendulkar survived a scare when he edged Suraj Randiv just past slip.
Barring those moments, the unbeaten pair batted fluently, with Tendulkar flicking Malinga for runs through midwicket and fine leg, and Sehwag using the sweep and not missing on anything short from the spinners. There was turn and bounce on offer, giving the Indian batsmen the odd nervy moment, unlike the unshakeable Samaraweera who displayed an excellent grasp of the pitch earlier in the day.
Samaraweera played the ball late, spotted the lengths early and, against the spinners, was adept in his footwork and confident in defence, rarely failing to pick their variations or gauge the turn. He was opportunistic in dispatching the short balls. He began with a slash over gully off a wayward Abhimanyu Mithun that just evaded Sehwag, and pulled him again to fine-leg. He struck his fifth four off Amit Mishra when gifted a long-hop, punched Ojha through the covers and reached his century with a nudge to the leg side.
He seamlessly switched to an aggressive approach when batting with the tail, slog-sweeping Mishra and lofting Ojha twice over extra-cover. The comfort with which he batted was in contrast to the struggles of his partners. Ojha deceived Mathews with an arm ball and sent back Prasanna Jayawardene with one that straightened while Ishant, who had proved threatening with movement off the deck, knocked off Nos.10 and 11 with deliveries banged in. Though Samaraweera had been left stranded, Sri Lanka had accumulated enough to put India under pressure but Sehwag kept them at bay.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo