Tour report

The Indians in Sri Lanka, 2001

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

Umpires: D. L. Orchard (South Africa) and R. D'Mello. Third umpire: S R. Modi. Series referee: G. R. Visranath. Sri Lanka recorded only their second Test series win against India when they beat them 2 I at home. Their one previous Test match win over their neighbours had come in 1985-86, when Dulccp Mendis led them to victory in the Second Test at Colombo and took the series I -0. They had lost the next home series. in 1993-94, and drew both matches on India's last full tour, in August 1997. That was best remembered for a run glut, with Sri Lanka amassing the highest total in Test cricket. 952 for six declared, including 340 to Sanath Jayasuriya.

For Jayasuriya, now captain, and his team, this current success was even greater cause for celebration because it was their first in four home series. Since beating Australia in September 1999. they had lost to Pakistan. drawn with South Africa and lost to England. In the last two series, Sri Lanka had begun on a winning note at Galle, only to squander the lead by losing at Kandy, Against India, history repeated itself. But this time, Sri Lanka broke the unlucky sequence in the final Test at Colombo. coming up with a compelling performance to triumph by an innings and 77 runs. It was Indian captain Sourav Ganguly's first Test series loss since taking charge the previous year.

The difference between the two sides lay in the home batting and the off-spin of Muttiah Muralitharan. In the First Test, Jayasuriya set the tone for a ten-wicket victory with an aggressive century; in the ihird, four batsmen made hundreds in a total of 611) for six declared, after Muralitharan had spun out India on the opening day with figures of eight for 87. The champion spinner was in his element and finished the series with 23 wickets, more than the next two most successful howlers put together. This was in marked contrast to his fellow off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, who came to Sri Lanka with a huge reputation after destroying world champions Australia in India with a rich haul of 32 wickets. He was expected to flourish on Sri Lankan pitches, but the home batsmen tackled him so well - as the Zimbabweans had two months earlier - that he returned a meagre four wickets at 73.00 each.

Sandwiched between Sri Lanka's victories was their defeat at Kandy, where a sense of complacency crept in and the batsmen failed to apply themselves. They took first-innings lead, but effectively lost the Test on the third morning, when four top-order wickets tumbled for 64. Kandy was the only Test in which the Indian halting clicked. with Ganguly and his deputy, Rahul Dravid, leading the run-chase to victory. In the absence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar and V. V S. Laxman, the tourists relied heavily on the experience of these two. Ganguly came the closest to three figures, with an unbeaten 98 at Kandy, while Dravid led the averages with 235 runs at 47.00. Against this, four Sri Lankans averaged more than 50. and six scored centuries. Mahela Jayawardene was the leading batsman, with 296 at 74.00, including two hundreds.

Overall, the Sri Lankans had their game plan well organised and they capitalised fully on India's mistakes. But, in their defence, the tourists were severely depleted. Anil Kumble had missed most of the season through injury, Tendulkar was forced to withdraw before setting out - ending a sequence of 84 consecutive Tests Laxman and Ashish Nehra joined the injury list during the preceding one-day tournament, and Javagal Srinath returned home after fracturing a finger in the First Test. Although this gave some of the younger Indian players an opportunity to press their claims, they showed far less ability to adapt to Test cricket than the Sri Lankan youngsters.

The series was played in a friendly atmosphere, the only black mark being Ganguly's one-match suspension for dissent and a later fine for bringing the game into disrepute during the triangular one-day tournament. In this, India recovered from a poor start, only to lose to Sri Lanka at the last. It confirmed India's reputation tin choking in finals, just as the Tests confirmed their dismal record overseas; it was 15 years since they won a full Test series on foreign soil.

Match reports for

Sri Lanka A v Indians at Colombo (NCC), Jul 18, 2001
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2nd Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (RPS), Jul 20, 2001
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3rd Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Jul 22, 2001
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5th Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (RPS), Jul 26, 2001
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6th Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Jul 28, 2001
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8th Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (SSC), Aug 1, 2001
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9th Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (SSC), Aug 2, 2001
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Final: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Aug 5, 2001
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Sri Lanka Board XI v Indians at Colombo (PSS), Aug 8-10, 2001
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1st Test: Sri Lanka v India at Galle, Aug 14-17, 2001
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2nd Test: Sri Lanka v India at Kandy, Aug 22-25, 2001
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3rd Test: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (SSC), Aug 29-Sep 2, 2001
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© John Wisden & Co