Asian Test Championship

Sri Lanka v India 1998-99

Sa'adi Thawfeeq

At Sinahlese Sports Club, Colombo, February 24, 25, 26, 27, 28. Drawn. Sri Lanka 4pts, India 5pts. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: P. D. R. L. Perera, K. E. A. Upashantha, A. Nehra. For India, their trip to Colombo meant a change of pace after the intensity of their three Tests with Pakistan. They made the most of an unexpectedly docile track to run up 500 in their first innings. But Sri Lanka came back creditably to earn a draw in their first Test since the previous August, when they crushed England at The Oval.

Off-spinner Muralitharan, who took 16 wickets in that match, was missing; so was Jayasuriya, who made a double-century - both had hand injuries. Arnold, the tall left-handed opener, replaced Jayasuriya, but the suprise was that Sri Lanka went into the test without a front-line spinner. Their captain Ranatunga, who knows the pitch like the back of his hand, was misled by the amount of grass on it, and opted for a four-pronged seam attack. But try as they might, none of them could make any impression.

In the absence of the experienced Wickremasinghe, Vaas had two young fast bowlers to support him, Eric Upashantha and left-armer Ruchira Perera, while Hathurusinghe was recalled to Test cricket after a three-year break and played the role of fourth seamer. India, by contrast, played a balanced attack of pace and spin. Ashish Nehra, a 19-year old left-arm fast-medium bowler from Delhi, replaced Srinath, who was rested.

Asked to bat, India scored 351 - and four bonus points - on the opening day. They were boosted by a stand of 232 between Ramesh, who completed his maiden Test century in his fourth Test, and Dravid. It was a record for India's second wicket against Sri Lanka, passing the 173 put on by Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in the very first Test between the countries in 1982-83. The middle order joined in the feast as well, enabling India to declare at a commanding 518 for seven at tea on the second day.

Like India, Sri Lanka lost an early wicket. But Jayawardene, who had more or less cemented the No. 3 spot since Gurusinha's disappearance from Test cricket, proved once again that he was a batsman with the temperament and the strokes for big scores. He converted his second hundred, in his seventh Test, into a magnificent double-century. His career-best 242 lasted 677 minutes, spread over three days, and 465 balls, with 30 fours and two sixes. It was the third-highest score for Sri Lanka in Tests.

India paid dearly for dropping Jayawardene five times, the first at 25. He held the Sri Lanka innings together, the only other man to reach 50 was Ranatunga. Spinners Kumble and Harbhajan Singh took seven wickets between them, undermining Sri Lanka's selection decision, but Jayawardene ensured the game would be drawn. He was last out at 485, having reduced India's lead to 33. India batted out the fifth day, which was notable only for Tendulkar's 19th Test century. Both captains were left to rue the end result, which guaranteed Pakistan a place in the final; Ranatunga admitted he'd been confounded by the nature of the pitch, while Azharuddin lamented the dropped chances.

© John Wisden & Co