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Records and bowlers took a beating in the mini-Test series between Sri Lanka and India, but two high-scoring draws led to stalemate. With both sides rich in batting and short of bowling the only hope of a decisive result would have been a sporting pitch, which neither ground provided.
The series proved that Sri Lanka had durable batsmen capable of batting long hours in the middle with unflagging concentration. No one made the point more emphatically than the indomitable left-handed opener Sanath Jayasuriya. His 799 minutes of unwavering concentration on a dead-as-a-dodo pitch at R. Premadasa Stadium brought him 340 runs, the fourth-highest innings in Tests and the first triple-hundred by a Sri Lankan in first-class cricket. Jayasuriya proved that, given the pitch and the conditions, he is capable of dominating the bowlers as easily in Tests as he so often does in the abbreviated game. He not only put them to the sword in the First Test, but followed up with 199 in the Second, to finish with an average of 190.33. His three innings combined consumed 1,282 minutes - more than 21 hours - out of the 2,057 minutes Sri Lanka spent at the crease. His phenomenal run made him the first batsman to pass 1,000 Test runs in the 1997 calendar year, on August 12.
Jayasuriya had to share some of his glory with Roshan Mahanama, whose Test career had been on the line because of inconsistent performances - largely due to not being given a permanent place in the batting order. Asked to fill the No. 3 slot after the premature retirement of Asanka Gurusinha, he finally came good with a career-best 225. He helped to rewrite the record books when he and Jayasuriya shared a second-wicket partnership of 576 at the R. Premadasa Stadium - the highest for any wicket in Test cricket. That mammoth stand enabled Sri Lanka to reach the highest total in Tests - 952 for six, beating England's 59 -year-old record of 903 for seven against Australia at The Oval. Vice-captain Aravinda de Silva maintained his remarkable consistency on home soil by scoring three consecutive centuries, to add to the three he scored against Pakistan in April, and averaged 130.66.
India could consider themselves lucky to save the Test series (they were white-washed in the one-day internationals). Although their bowlers were pulverised without mercy, their batsmen managed to keep some of their pride. Two of their most experienced cricketers, captain Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin, scored a couple of hundreds apiece. The tourists' biggest weaknesses were the failure of their key bowlers, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble, to take wickets consistently, and the lack of guidance for Tendulkar. There were occasions when the 24-year-old captain seemed lost for advice; he was not getting any from his deputy Kumble, nor from his predecessor Azharuddin. India badly missed the wisdom of a manager like Ajit Wadekar, whose fatherly counsel could have been a soothing balm for all their ailments.
S. R. Tendulkar (Mumbai) (captain), A. Kumble (Karnataka) (vice-captain), M. Azharuddin (Hyderabad), R. K. Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), R. Dravid (Karnataka), S. C. Ganguly (Bengal), A. Jadeja (Haryana), V. G. Kambli (Mumbai), G. K. Khoda (Rajasthan), N. M. Kulkarni (Mumbai), A. Kuruvilla (Mumbai), D. S. Mohanty (Orissa), N. R. Mongia (Baroda), B. K. V. Prasad (Karnataka), N. S. Sidhu (Punjab), R. R. Singh (Tamil Nadu).
Manager: R. S. Shetty. Coach: Madan Lal.
Test matches - Played 2: Drawn 2.
First-class matches - Played 3: Drawn 3.
Draws - Sri Lanka (2), Board President's XI.
One-day internationals - Played 4: Lost 3, No result 1.
Other non-first-class match - Won v Board President's XI.
Match reports for
4th Match: India v Pakistan at Colombo (SSC), Jul 21, 1997
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