It has been so long since Harbhajan Singh imposed his will on a match that some were beginning to doubt whether he would ever return to being a major spin bowling force. Sure, the five-wicket hauls occasionally came along, but they consumed plenty of overs, at an ever-growing cost and did not always impose themselves on the result of a game. But in Galle, Harbhajan turned, tweaked and skipped his way to an important 10-wicket haul.
Ajantha Mendis, playing only his second Test, picked up his first 10-for, but ended up on the losing side. For Harbhajan this performance will mean a lot because he is a player who hates to lose. Amidst all the fanfare surrounding Mendis and Murali, Harbhajan has quietly crept up to 287 Test wickets.
It was not as though the pitch had crumbled and the ball was keeping low and jumping up, or that there was appreciable turn. "The odd ball is spinning. But if you bowl in the right areas and set the field accordingly, you can create chances," he said.
He created enough chances consistently. "I bowled a little quicker in this match because the ball was drifting a bit," he explained. "I also tried to mix my pace, and that worked."
Just recently, Harbhajan was out of the Indian team after the slapgate episode. Although his 10 for 153 was put in the shade by the 251 runs Sehwag got, this performance will go some way in resigning slapgate to the past.