Second Test

India v Sri Lanka, 2005-06

Ramakrishnan Kaushik


At Delhi, December 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 2005. India won by 188 runs. Toss: India.

Fortunes swung dramatically before finally settling decisively in India's favour in a Test that will be remembered as the one that saw Sachin Tendulkar keep his appointment with destiny. Tendulkar reaffirmed his status as probably the finest batsman of his generation by passing Sunil Gavaskar to become the record-holder for the most Test centuries.

Tendulkar's 35th hundred, in his 125th match - the same number that Gavaskar played to score his 34 hundreds - was the highlight of a game that had more twists and turns than a Grand Prix circuit. It was an innings that, in contrast to his recent approach, mushroomed from the circumspect to the awe-inspiring. The first half of his only Test hundred of 2005 was a lesson in the art of innings-building, but his second fifty passed in a flash, filled with deft strokes. It was a fitting innings with which to break the record, a knock that by his own admission made him "truly emotional", and it was met with equal relief and elation by a doting nation when he turned Vaas to fine leg for the vital single in the gloaming at 4.45 p.m., the last ball before bad light ended play for the day.

It was just one of a number of impressive performances in a match in which India's collective strength and Sri Lanka's inability to maintain concentration made the difference. The eventual margin of victory was comfortable, but it does not tell the whole story. Sri Lanka had their moments, notably on the second day, when Muralitharan sent India tail-spinning from 254 for three to 290 all out (finishing with seven for 100, including five for 23 on the second morning) and then made a spirited reply through Atapattu and Jayawardene to reach 175 for two. Then, in what their coach Tom Moody called 45 minutes of madness, they were spun to their doom by Kumble, enjoying his return to a ground where he had taken 38 wickets in four previous Tests, including all ten in an innings against Pakistan in 1998-99. He toiled away for 15 overs before his first wicket, but then took three more in his next six.

Tendulkar and Kumble were not the only Indian heroes. With Sehwag out with a throat infection, Dravid asked Pathan to open in the second innings to build quickly on the lead of 60. It was not a reckless gamble: Pathan had struggled at No. 8 against Murali, armed with a soft old ball. But, pitchforked to the top, Pathan fed off the hardness of the new ball and played with refreshing freedom, unflustered even when Murali was hurried into the attack, sharing the new ball with Vaas, who claimed Gambhir as his 300th wicket, in his 90th Test. Without resorting to slogging, Pathan made a rapid-fire 93. Dravid applied himself for 53, then Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni tore into the bowling. Ganguly, fighting for his Test future, made 40 and 39, and shared important partnerships in both innings - but, as it transpired, this was not enough to keep his place for the Third Test.

Dravid declared shortly after lunch on the fourth day, setting an unlikely target of 436. Atapattu and Jayawardene again provided most of the resistance, but for the second time in three days Sri Lanka collapsed after tea. Next morning Kumble completed his eighth ten-wicket haul in a Test, and India won with more than three hours to spare.

Man of the Match: A. Kumble.

© John Wisden & Co.