Posts Tagged ‘Harbhajan’

Sangakkara ton brings hopes for Sri Lanka

August 9, 2008

On the second day, Kumar Sangakkara, kept Sri Lanka’s nose ahead with a patient century. After Chaminda Vaas and Sangakkara had frustrated India in the first session, the Indian spinners fought back in the middle, drying up the runs and getting important wickets as a result, but they were denied by a rock-solid Sangakkara, and to a lesser extent by the inconsistent umpiring when it came to reviews.

Sangakkara’s hundred competed with the review decision that went Thilan Samaraweera’s way as the talking point of the day. India had taken two wickets, those of Vaas and Mahela Jayawardene, for four runs to reduce Sri Lanka to 141 for 4, and should have made it three for 16 when Kumble’s appeal for an lbw against Samaraweera was rejected. In live time, it seemed there might have been an inside edge before the ball hit pad, but the replays clearly showed the ball hit the pad first. The impact was 40% inside the mat – as it was with Rahul Dravid when he was given out yesterday – and the ball would have gone on to hit the middle stump three-fourths of the way up. For some reason, though, the original decision was upheld, which left the Indians irate. Sachin Tendulkar, who had injured his elbow earlier, even signalled “out” from the dressing room. Samaraweera was on 5, then, and went on to score 35, and more importantly, put together a 60-run partnership with Sangakkara at a crucial juncture.

Nothing should take away from Sangakkara, though, who curbed his stroke-playing instincts, realising that his wicket would have been critical. He made a dicey start in the morning with an uppish boundary past a diving Rohit Sharma at point, but was determined to make amends for his ordinary series till then. Before this Test, his average in 2008 was close to 24. Twice in the previous Tests, Zaheer Khan had caught him in the crease, making him play at legcutters. This time, though, Sangakkara consciously got on to the front foot, especially against Zaheer. Once he saw Zaheer off, there were no signs of struggle, and he was severe on anything loose.

A big chance arrived for India when Sangakkara, on 34 then, edged a faster one from Kumble, but Rahul Dravid failed to latch on to what would have been a spectacular slip catch. To rub salt in, Sangakkara came up with an exquisite cover-drive off Harbhajan in the next over.

After lunch India came out determined to make runs hard to get. In the first session Sri Lanka had managed 100, while in the first 11 overs of the second they got only 23. Harbhajan kept bowling outside off, while Kumble – from round the stumps – got purchase from the pitch. Vaas, the night-watchman who took ownership of the house in the first session, was strangled: he survived two close calls in one Kumble over, and in Harbhajan’s next, lobbed an easy catch to extra cover, falling two runs short of achieving the double of 3000 runs and 300 wickets. Harbhajan then beat Jayawardene with an offbreak, and for once Jayawardene got the review call wrong. He was given out lbw and that’s how it stayed.

The Harbhajan-Kumble duo worked well in the middle session, and Zaheer bowled a testing spell after tea, giving away 21 runs in eight overs and eventually getting Samaraweera out with a delivery that bounced and left the batsman.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, as usual, came out full of intent, and in partnership with Sangakkara started to break free. For 12 overs at one point towards stumps, Sri Lanka didn’t score a boundary, getting only 27 runs, but once Dilshan cut loose things began to look ominous for India. But Kumble, unfortunate not to have got a wicket till then, struck at the right time with a topspinner. Dilshan asked for the review, but he had been caught plumb. Given the tendency of lower orders to collapse dramatically, and also that Sri Lanka have to bat last, it would be brave to say that Sri Lanka have a clear advantage.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi


India in strong position after play stops for bad light

August 2, 2008

Heavy attrition was followed by heavy artillery in the first two sessions of play, and India walked away with the honours from both: Anil Kumble came up with a special two-wicket over ten minutes before lunch, ending a resolute period of defiance by Mahela Jayawardene; and Virender Sehwag hurt Sri Lanka with a characteristic fifty – his first in a match in which he had scored a century already. Despite Jayawardene’s calm innings, and the fall of Sehwag’s wicket against the run of play, India looked like moving towards a comfortable lead on a pitch that should be at its worst in the fourth innings.

After India had secured a 37-run lead in the first innings, Sehwag continued from where he had left: hitting the first ball he faced for a boundary. Nuwan Kulasekara got a repeat dose four times in his four overs. Muttiah Muralitharan, introduced in the sixth over, was swept for four in his first over and a six in his second. Ajantha Mendis, brought on in the 17th over – the latest he has been introduced in his two Tests so far – was cut for a four in his second over. Only Chaminda Vaas, who was faced mostly by Gautam Gambhir, escaped the treatment. And finally, when Sehwag thrashed a wide ball from Vaas towards extra cover, Tillakaratne Dilshan held on to a special catch: it was fast, it was high, and Dilshan was at short cover.

Gambhir, meanwhile, who had made a slow start, quietly took the front seat: he had scored two runs off 20 when Sehwag had 22 off 15, but when Sehwag got out for 50, Gambhir had 39 off 65. His handling of Murali was exceptional: no more getting suckered out of the crease, he was almost always right to the pitch of the ball. He slog-swept Murali, cover-drove him, and then charged him straight down to reach his second fifty of the match – another first, as with Sehwag.

The first session was slow by contrast, but just as intense and gripping as the others, and perhaps much more crucial. Almost every over – before Mahela started farming strike following a double-strike – featured a loud shout, an edge that fell short, or a sharp spinning delivery that missed everything. Kumble and Harbhajan bowled 24 successive overs in tandem, and but for a three-over spell by Ishant Sharma in the final session yesterday, bowled 68 overs at a stretch. Harbhajan took his unbroken spell to 37 overs, and after he was finally taken off, returned immediately to bowl from the other end.

Jayawardene, despite back-to-back wickets for Kumble and Harbhajan, kept Sri Lanka in the game. He was unaffected by the spinning ball, the variations in the bowling, and all else that happened around him. There were no free runs on offer; but he was assured enough to not try to hit himself out of the situation. He managed a total of five boundaries in the session – Malinda Warnapura had hit four in one over yesterday. And once Prasanna and Vaas fell in consecutive overs, two things happened for Sri Lanka that haven’t happened in tandem for India: Jayawardene farmed the strike adroitly; and Kulasekara gave solid support to his captain, facing the few deliveries he needed to with aplomb. In sharp contrast, in the first Test, Laxman failed to keep the strike to himself; in the second, when Virender Sehwag farmed it, he got zero support from the tail.

The only quarter Sri Lanka received from India came from the close-in fielding. Gambhir, who let a half-chance go yesterday, couldn’t hold on to a similar offering from Prasanna early in the day. And when Jayawardene, anxious to shield Kulasekara, went for an unwise single off the last ball of the 79th over, Gambhir – at short square leg – failed to gather the ball as it came off a slightly bad bounce.

In keeping with the narrative of the match till then, just when Sri Lanka seemed to have got themselves the upper hand, another turnaround followed, with Kumble making his first impact of the series. Jayawardene, 14 short of a deserved century, edged Kumble to Dinesh Karthik, and the game was back in the balance. Although Jayawardene and Kulasekara frustrated India for 17.1 overs, India had managed to keep the partnership down to 36 runs. Kumble and Harbhajan then proceeded to remove the next two – taking the last three wickets in seven balls – to get the lead, which on this pitch will surely be bigger than the number it consists of.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi