A sporting wicket, stylish batting, quality bowling, good catching and accurate umpiring are the main ingredients of a good day in Test cricket. On Thursday, in a must-win match for India, poor umpiring spoiled the day's intriguing proceedings, thanks to a hattrick of howlers by umpire Rod Tucker.
The first came in the second over of the day. Three balls after Virender Sehwag pulled Suraj Randiv through mid-wicket to reach his 21st century, he was trapped plumb before the wicket. Randiv, bowling around the wicket, struck Sehwag's pads well below the knee roll and Tucker should have raised his finger. But he didn't.
The decision didn't cost Sri Lanka much since Randiv, bowling the leg-stump line with a strong on-side field, soon enticed Sehwag into clearing the offside. The batsman tried to create room but the ball came on slower than he expected, and it went straight to Chanaka Welegedara at mid-off.
Though the impact of Tucker's first error was negated, his last two blunders could play a huge role in deciding the eventual outcome of the game. After the Indian tail wagged to help the side overtake Sri Lanka's first innings total of 425, Randiv, who bowled unchanged in the first session, was brought back into the attack.
And the offie struck in the first over of a new spell. With the ball hitting Abhimanyu Mithun's (46) thigh pads on the way to Mahela Jayawardene at leg slip, Tucker should have figured out that there was no contact with the wood. But he upheld the loud appeal.
Half an hour later, came the worst decision. Randiv struck Ishant Sharma (8) on his pads, and the ball lobbed into Tharanga Paranavitana's palms at forward short-leg. A loud shout was first turned down, and just as the bowler was turning back, Tucker raised his finger. It's high time the International Cricket Council makes the decision review system mandatory for all Tests.
Nevertheless, a stiff resistance from India's lower order overshadowed Tucker's poor show. Once Sachin Tendulkar became Malinga's 100th Test victim in the opening over of the day and Sehwag perished soon after, it was up to VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina to put on a solid partnership.
Just when the right and left-hand combination raised hopes of a big lead, both fell to Ajantha Mendis in quick succession after adding 105 for the fifth wicket. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni (18), who was again hit on his injured middle finger, returned soon after, India were in danger of conceding a big first innings lead. But Mithun and Amit Mishra (40) batted sensibly to give India an 11-run lead. With Sehwag getting rid of both the openers, Lanka finished the day with a lead of 34 runs and eight wickets in hand.