As much as Muttiah Muralitharan's farewell, Suresh Raina's century on debut and Sachin Tendulkar's double, the three-Test series between India and Sri Lanka will be a remembered as a great tale of the tail.
Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath started it with a 115-run partnership for the
eighth wicket in Galle. Abhimanyu Mithun, Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha then teamed up with veteran VVS Laxman to give India a glimmer of hope in the second innings. Though their combined tally of 69 runs didn't matter much, their survival for almost three hours was frustrating for the Lankan bowlers.
But over the three days of the third Test, the P. Sara Oval has witnessed some of the best batting displays by tail-enders. On Day Two, Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis held fort for a while to aid Thilan Samaraweera score from the other end. Had the last four wickets not added 66 runs, the Lankan total would never have read 425.
Then on Thursday, it was the turn of Mithun and Amit Mishra. When Mishra joined the former with India stuttering at 350 for seven, had it not been for their 64-run stand for the eighth wicket, India wouldn't have got the slender 11-run advantage in the first essay.
But Mendis took the tail-enders' tale to greater heights on Friday, rescuing Sri Lanka from the jaws of defeat and then putting his team on the brink of a 2-0 series victory.
When Mendis came in to bat eight minutes before lunch, Sri Lanka were leading by 114 runs, having lost six wickets for 80 runs in the morning session. Though the pitch was not doing much, but thanks to some tidy bowling by Ojha and Mishra backed by poor short selection by the Lankan middle order, India succeeded in picking five wickets for just 42 runs.
At 87 for seven, Samaraweera, the only centurion in the match so far, was joined by Malinga. The duo's 38-run stand made it clear that though the wicket was offering slow turn, if the batsmen applied themselves properly, they could score at will.
However, Sri Lanka were fighting with their backs to the wall when Malinga perished off Virender Sehwag. In came Mendis and, along with Samaraweera, saw off the tricky period before lunch.
After the break, both batsmen were helped by MS Dhoni's inexplicable tactics. With eight wickets in the bag, instead of applying pressure, he gave Samaraweera easy singles thus helping Mendis get a hang of the conditions.
Mendis's 78 and his 118-run stand with Samaraweera set India a difficult target of 257 to chase. The Indian top order lived up to its reputation in the fourth innings, with Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Murali Vijay perishing before bails were drawn at 53 for three.