India 329 (Sehwag 201*, Gambhir 56, Mendis 6-117) and 269 (Gambhir 74, Sehwag 50, Mendis 4-92) beat Sri Lanka 292 (Jayawardene 86, Sangakkara 68, Warnapura 66, Harbhajan 6-102) and 136 (Samaraweera 67*, Ishant 3-20, Harbhajan 4-51) by 170 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Ishant Sharma started Sri Lanka's slide with early wickets, including that of the in-form Mahela Jayawardene
On a pitch and in a series where the fast bowlers have only been making up
the numbers, a hostile and quick Ishant Sharma helped India seal an incredible
comeback after they had slumped to their third-worst defeat ever in the
In the first session of the day, Muttiah Muralitharan and
Ajantha Mendis had made sure India didn't take their lead into the realms of
the impregnable, but with Ishant bowling the way he did, the target of 307 stayed
secure. Ishant got good support from Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh; the
latter finished with his fifth ten-wicket haul.
Sri Lanka were attacked from a quarter they would have least expected
hostilities from, and after having done well playing catch-up throughout
the match, they finally fell short. The match was much closer than the 170-run margin indicated.
Ishant was accurate, he hit the bat hard, gave Dinesh Karthik some more
difficulties behind the wicket, and most importantly, kept producing his special
delivery repeatedly: the one that holds its line after having pitched on a
Ishant began with a wicket with the third ball he bowled, sending down a
perfect right-armer's ball to a left-hander, pitching it around leg and
moving it away, making Malinda Warnapura play and edge. Zaheer, in the next
over, produced a legcutter for Sangakkara similar to the one he did in the
first Test, with similar results. And in his next over, Ishant got the
biggest wicket of them all for India - Mahela Jayawardene, who looked to
counterattack and cut straight to gully, where Rahul Dravid held on to a sharp chance.
Dravid was exuberant at having taken the catch - he had dropped Michael
Vandort in the first over, and had also been pushed out of the cordon.
Ishant and Zaheer then tightened the screws. Ishant, in particular,
seemed to be bowling on a different pitch from the one that had been on
display on the four previous days. At one point, the preceding 12.3 overs had
cost India 11 runs and featured two huge lbw shouts, one catch off a
no-ball, and most importantly, robust fast bowling. Harbhajan took advantage
of that period, and trapped Vandort with an arm-ball in his first over.
But there was one final twist left in the match, and Ishant it was who
pulled India out of a threatening situation. Thilan Samaraweera and
Tillakaratne Dilshan had put together a swift 76-run stand, pulling Sri
Lanka out of the shell they had played themselves into. Dilshan, in
particular, hustled the bowling, briefly changing the texture of the game.
Ishant came up with a special over after tea, bowling at high pace, extracting extra bounce,
and getting the ball to hold its line. After having beaten Dilshan
twice, he finally got him to edge one, and it was all downhill for Sri Lanka
Harbhajan took control of the situation then; both lower orders
have, on this pitch, been hard pressed against quality spin bowling.
Samaraweera, who scored a resolute half-century, could not do much about
what happened at the other end. The last five wickets fell for 23 runs,
Harbhajan taking three of them. When he got Mendis, he completed his
ten-for, and a successful redemption after his recent misadventures.
Mendis, incidentally, had finished his first ten-wicket haul by taking
Harbhajan's wicket earlier in the day. That was the end of a collapse in
which India lost their last five for 17 runs. India had started the day
tentatively, but the overnight batsmen - VVS Laxman and
Sourav Ganguly - kept the runs coming. They hadn't yet played themselves in
when Mendis nailed Laxman with another one of his special carrom balls -
pitching within the stumps, breaking rapidly, and heading for off stump.
Laxman's pad intervened, but the umpire had no hesitation in sending him on
Karthik came out aggressive, stepping out and hitting both Mendis and
Murali for sixes, and also pulling out a reverse-sweep. He might even have
had a hand in suggesting to Ganguly that he ask for a review when Ganguly
was given lbw to one that seemed to be missing off stump. But just when
it looked like the two might get too many, too fast, Murali pulled
them back. Karthik, going for a third six, was beaten in the flight and
caught in the deep. Ganguly was suckered out of the crease by a flighted,
fiercely dipping delivery, and Prasanna Jayawardene's quickness with the
stumping made the dismissal look more even more comprehensive.
The rest contributed enough only for the so-called psychological advantage:
when Karthik got out, India's lead was 292; they finished on 306. Ishant,
though, rendered the tussle in the first session superfluous.
That India came into the fourth day still alive had all to do with a
near-solo effort by Virender Sehwag, who reached his fifth double-century
in the first innings, and for the first time in his career scored a fifty
in a match in which he had also scored a century. India, out of habit
perhaps, managed to waste a fiery start from Sehwag, but he had done
enough, as was proved when India went on to win only the third Test in
which he had scored a century.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo