The Galle Test affirmed that Test cricket is intriguing. Who would have thought that the world’s best batting line-up would fare so miserably? Or that Muttiah Muralitharan wouldn’t pick a single wicket with his doosra in his final Test?
Before everything else, it was Murali. A giant finally turned his back on Test cricket. What a man, what a performer! Even though Lasith Malinga did his best, Murali turned the Test on its head on the fourth morning. His scalps of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh before lunch pushed India towards disaster.
Ironically, there were no signs of a calamity. Dhoni had swatted the first delivery off Murali to the midwicket fence and Yuvraj was in his elements. Runs were coming at breakneck speed. Then, Murali conjured that big off-break which confused Dhoni and by the time he came forward, there was a highway passage between bat and pad. Yuvraj fell in the next over and Sri Lanka had the game by the throat. It was this clutch of wickets, to go with the one in the final half hour of the fourth day, which broke India’s back. This would suggest a failure of the top order on a wicket which got slower.
Gautam Gambhir’s no-show in both innings didn’t help. Excellent as Malinga and Murali were, Sri Lanka were tactically sounder than the guests.
Next, they targeted Virender Sehwag’s strengths — the cut, steer and scoop — square off the off-stump. Even if it looked ugly and negative, the Sri Lankans were confident that Sehwag, with his impetuous style, would be snared into this wide line of attack. He walked straight into the trap.
Similarly, the Lankans betted on Laxman’s tendency to go for the pull. He was peppered with short deliveries in the first innings and finally lost patience.
India were undone by a lame attack and a huge total can test the best. Let’s hope better luck awaits them in Colombo.
But first let’s bid farewell to one of the all-time giants.