At Chennai, December 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2005. Drawn. Toss: India. Test debut: M. S. Dhoni.
Cyclone Baaz reduced the opening Test to a non-event. Chennai had suffered record rains in the month before the match, and the wisdom of scheduling it in a city historically wet at this time of year has to be questioned. Not a single ball was bowled during the first three days, despite the efforts of the groundstaff, and only 32.3 overs on the fourth.
It was a pity, as the match had been eagerly awaited, particularly in India, whose deposed captain Ganguly was making an international comeback after being deemed superfluous to the one-day plan charted by coach Greg Chappell with the 2007 World Cup in mind. It was also Sri Lanka's first Test in India for eight years, and even in the short amount of play that was possible, Muralitharan - whose wife comes from Chennai - showed that he would be a handful in the rest of the series.
The psychological battle went Sri Lanka's way. India batted diffidently after Dravid won the toss, scoring at little more than two an over in stumbling to 167 all out on the undercooked surface, where ankles were in more danger than ribs. The sluggish track made strokemaking almost impossible on the fourth evening, although Sehwag typically hurtled to 36 from just 28 balls. Still, it was surprising that Vaas was allowed to send down 11 successive maidens, most of them on the final morning, to India's prime batsmen. He finished with four for 20 from 21 overs, 14 of them maidens.
As the sun came out, the pitch eased on the last day, and Sri Lanka hurried to the minor satisfaction of a first-innings lead before the game ended, with Jayawardene batting as if in the nets, treating pace and spin with equal disdain. They were helped by five penalty runs when an under-edge from Jayawardene eluded Dhoni and hit the helmet behind him.
Man of the Match: W. P. U. J. C. Vaas.
Ramakrishnan Kaushik is a journalist with the Deccan Herald in Bangalore.