Sri Lanka v India, 3rd Test, P Sara Oval, 2nd day August 4, 2010

Sehwag finds a way past defensive attacks

Sri Lanka persisted with their strategy of boring Virender Sehwag into a mistake but, at the P Sara Oval, he found a way to overcome the boredom, and still score freely

Virender Sehwag is bored of Kumar Sangakkara's tactics. And boredom seems to be the only way Sri Lanka can get Sehwag out. That has been the case since Kanpur last year. They bored him in Galle, and Sehwag obliged by chasing a short and wide delivery. They bored him at the SSC, he resisted and resisted, and then got out to the first sight of a new spinner. It was hardly surprising then that as early as the eighth over at the P Sara Oval we had a square third man, a deep point, and a sweeper-cover, and Chanaka Welegedara bowling short and wide outside off.

It is an obvious plan, but because it is Sehwag, it makes for fascinating viewing. Defensive tactics, run-less periods, eat at his soul. It is as if the basic purpose of his cricket is being defeated. He goes out of his way then. He says he will keep playing the same shot too. Except he doesn't play it for he is no fool. Still he needs to keep scoring runs. He needs to find a way. Find a way he did today.

First, though, he showed Sangakkara and Welegedara that they were wasting their time. He left the ball in a dismissive manner. The bat didn't even go up. The feet didn't try to cover the off stump. There was no "just in case". He knew what was going on. But that was not enough, runs needed to be scored. This is a man who has scored 4478 of his first 7000 Test runs in boundaries.

By the time Sri Lanka resorted to bowling wide outside off with deep off-side fields, Sehwag had already scored 21 off 21, including four boundaries off Welegedara. The "plan" now was well and truly on. The first ball Sehwag left alone, the second he pulled deliberately through midwicket. Sri Lanka saw impatience, and continued with the same attack. Sehwag opened the face, played the next ball all along the ground. Single. 29 off 27.

The first ball of the next over from Welegedara was left alone disdainfully. The next ball Sehwag hit fiercely. Down the ground, between mid-off and extra cover. I can still hit fours, he seemed to say. And then he left alone five more deliveries in that over, one of them a wide.

He left alone the first ball of the next over. He shaped to cut the next, but left that too. And then he moved across the stumps, got in line, and pulled it to square-leg. Four more. Two balls later he hit a forehand between the bowler and mid-off. 46 off 41. If SSC was bad for Sri Lanka, this was worse. At SSC Sehwag just waited for them to bowl at his stumps. Here, not only was he telling Sri Lanka he won't be getting out wide outside off, he was telling them he would score boundaries too.

There were two big differences between Galle and here. In Galle the shot that got him out had every chance of landing in the deep fielder's lap even if Sehwag had connected as opposed to toe-ending it. Here his shots were intended for vacant areas.

The bigger and more important difference was what runs meant here. In Galle, or in SSC for that matter, quick runs wouldn't have won India the match. Taking risks then was a no-win situation. Here, with a more manageable 425 on the board, quick runs hurt Sri Lanka. Galle and SSC were up Sri Lanka's alley, this was up Sehwag's.

On a day that Sehwag became the second-quickest man to 7000 runs - in terms of innings and joint-fastest in terms of Tests played - other than that defensive-attacking strategy, there wasn't much to bother him. Lasith Malinga he kept out well. No undue risks, no undue caution. The only other threat to Sehwag would have been the first sighting of spinners. He can't control himself against those creatures. Ajantha Mendis' first delivery he safely glided behind square leg. Suraj Randiv's first he swept away for four. Some things never change.

Sehwag will start the third day on 97, and Sri Lanka should throw spinners at him right away. SSC was not the first time he missed a milestone looking to hit a spinner for six. He might go for it again. He might not. Either way it will make for more fascinating viewing.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Abhishek on August 5, 2010, 7:14 GMT

    @Mark00 Do you watch cricket? Sehwag has scored 100s in Australia against the world's best fast bowlers, in England with the most helpful conditions for bowlers and FYI he had also scored 100s in NZ on pitches where teams were struggling to make 100. If you say Veeru is a flat pitch bully, what do you say about Mahela or Sangakarra. Go get your facts right before posting here.

  • Rajesh on August 5, 2010, 7:02 GMT

    There was a time when I used to Switch off the TV once Sachin got out. Now Sehwag has taken up that role. When he is at the crease, Test Cricket is at its entertaining best. Raina seems to have the potential to take up that mantle from Sehwag in the years to come. Who said Cricket is not a batsmen's game. Tell me any one bowler for whose bowling alone,one would watch a match. Maybe there was one gentlemen by name Shane Warne who could do bit of justice to that.Certainly not anyone in the current bunch of cricketers. Most of them including Randiv look like a bunch of gymnasts.

  • Rachit on August 5, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    @rogue777: dude, u r clearly a lankan...yes, he was dropped...big deal, catches go down in every test match...we, as an ordinary side, maybe drop more than most (pak excluded!!) fact, we dropped a few in this series no point crying over those...u guys jst cnt get over it, can u...the second match, all lankans cud do was cry cry n cry over the sachin drop. and btw, SL is THE single most boring place for test matches...with the 2 most defensive and conservative players in mahela and sanga...but very aggressive wen it comes to their tongues...!! all talk n no character...u shud hv seen the fields set, not just for sehwag, b4 u jumo up n down n call it a plan...even for sachin...4-5 fielders at the boundary!! on top of that, SL bats for 2 days on a flat track, scoring 650, and expect Indian to declare?? why aint YOU aggressive, mahela? or is it just the demand from any team at number 1?? utterly hilarious and hypocrisy at its best!!

  • Abhishek on August 5, 2010, 6:32 GMT

    People like Sehwag are very important for test cricket to survive. Nothing is hurting Cricket more than Flast pitches and Sangakarra/Jayawerdene type captains whose first intent is "not to lose". Even after having a sizeable first innings total, and having some world class bowlers he still used defensive strategy.

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    I agree with Mark00 100% ... watching test cricket now is as pointless as going to the zoo to see "wild" animals.

  • Noushad on August 5, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    Viru is the oxygen of Indian cricket. He not only protecting Indian cricket, but also attracting huge crows into test cricket arenas. I very much worried about future of Indian cricket after his exit.

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2010, 5:30 GMT


  • varun on August 5, 2010, 5:20 GMT

    The way they played today, i have to say that India should stop playing cricket and get back to hockey. If they continue to play they should remove dhoni from captain and replace him with sehwag or rana who know how to play, Tendulkar would be an option be he would not like it. Only 3 players are playing well in the indian squad, Sehwag, Raina and Tendulkar everyone else are playing as if they are terrible debutants.

  • Purushotham on August 5, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    @Rogue777 - so Sehwag is one of those who score on flat sub-continent wickets !!. Ok. What of Punter who cannot score EVEN ON THOSE pitches?!

  • veera swamy on August 5, 2010, 4:26 GMT

    This is really a nice article. I didn't watch his batting as it is night time for me. Your article gives me how the play was. It was nice to see this!! Yes! Sehwag continue to do what he is, but, have little patience when he is in nearing to the century..

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