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India head to Galle under pressure

Once the Sri Lanka President’s XI had made it clear that they would opt to have batting practice instead of asking the Indians to follow on, the last day’s play of the warm-up match was always going to be a dull affair, reports Amol Karhadkar.

cricket Updated: Jul 16, 2010 00:18 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Once the Sri Lanka President’s XI had made it clear that they would opt to have batting practice instead of asking the Indians to follow on, the last day’s play of the warm-up match was always going to be a dull affair.

And that’s exactly how Thursday panned out at the Colts Cricket Club. A light drizzle just before tea forced both the captains, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Thilan Samaraweera to engage in a brief discussion. Simultaneously, India coach Gary Kirsten had a word with his counterpart Stuart Law. Then the skippers consulted match referee Graeme Labrooy and the match was called off.

While Pragyan Ojha added three wickets to his five-for in the first innings, Sri Lanka’s reserve opener for the Galle Test, Lahiru Thirimanne, made a case for a call-up into the team with a fluent century. SLP XI, who started the day with a 223-run lead in the first innings, were 261 for six at close.

Since the Indian team and six members of the SLP XI had to leave for Galle for the first Test, the decision did appear logical.

“It’s commonsensical. We could have stayed here till five o’clock, but it wouldn’t have been much use,” Law, who is the assistant coach of Sri Lanka’s national team, said after the game.

But he admitted that had he been playing in Australia in such a situation, he would have opted to put India in to bat again instead of depriving them of batting practice.

“It’s entirely different where I grew up and the way we go about our cricket where it’s not so much about wearing the opposition down. It’s about beating them hands down,” Law said. “But (since) I am with Sri Lanka, I have to do it the Sri Lankan way. I was speaking to Gary and he said if we would have been in India, they would have done exactly the same. We understand what’s going on. A Test tour is not just 15 days of cricket.”

While Thirimanne made his case for selection, Abhimanyu Mithun and Amit Mishra could not impress with the ball in the second successive innings. While Mithun failed to make use of the red cherry and conceded 42 runs in his first six overs, leggie Mishra consistently missed the good-length spot. No wonder he was plundered for 46 runs in his first spell of six overs as SLP XI raced to 164 for two off just 26 overs at lunch.

Law was obviously pleased as his team had achieved their objective of putting India under pressure ahead of the Test series.

“What we did was we came in and decided if we were going to bat, we would take them on. We won’t get intimidated. And I think that’s the way you have to play against the No. 1 team in the world,” Law said.

“If you can bat against them aggressively and if you can bowl to them aggressively, am not trying to highlight their weaknesses, but you can put them under pressure. That’s exactly what we have done.”

While Law will hope the Sri Lankan team will take a cue from their fringe players, India would be hoping otherwise. Over to Galle.