Barring the fourth day’s play during the second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club last week, India had not dominated all three sessions of a day during their ongoing three-Test series against Sri Lanka.
But Wednesday turned out to be different for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men as a tight bowling performance was complimented by Virender Sehwag’s trademark blitzkrieg. India ended Day 2 with a good chance of taking a stranglehold on the must-win match.
After wrapping up Sri Lanka’s first essay for 425, Sehwag’s unbeaten 97 helped India end the second day on 180 for 2 when bad light stopped play with two overs remaining.
On a wicket that’s already offering considerable turn and some bounce to the spinners, India’s best chance of levelling the series was to bat big.
Despite Murali Vijay (14), and Rahul Dravid (23) throwing their wickets away after promising starts, Sehwag and Tendulkar (40 not out) put together an unbroken 88-run third-wicket stand that has given India a good platform from which they can harbour hopes of a win.
Had Angelo Mathews held on to Sehwag’s uppish drive in his second over after the all-rounder trapped Dravid in front of wickets, India could have been in a jam.
But that was not to be. And Sehwag, who was on 52 then, continued in the same vein not just to lead India’s charge but also record a few milestones.
First, when he cut Mathews through point over the fence for his 12th boundary of the innings, he joined the rare league of 14 batsmen to have hit 1,000 boundaries in Test cricket.
And when Lasith Malinga, who had enticed Vijay into a foul stroke to get his 99th victim, replaced Mathews for the next over from the same end, Sehwag ran a quick single to become the second-fastest batsman to cross the 7,000-run mark in Tests. Playing in his 80th Test, Sehwag reached the milestone in his 134th innings, just three more than England’s Wally Hammond.
While the clone was on song at one end, the master also looked in sublime touch. More importantly, the groin injury that he picked up during his double-century last week did not seem to trouble him during his 66-minute stay at the wicket.
Earlier in the day, Pragyan Ojha (4-115) and Ishant Sharma (3-72) helped India bowl Sri Lankan out for the first time in the series.
When Ojha saw the back of Mathews (45) and Prasanna Jayawardene (9) in the morning session, India were in with a chance to restrict the hosts below 400.
However, Thilan Samaraweera (137 not out) forged a 35-run association with Ajantha Mendis after lunch and helped the hosts go past the 400-run mark.