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Bhajji’s 4 stalls Lankan charge

After the dud wickets in Ahmedabad and Kanpur and the exercise of heaping runs, Test cricket was back to a battle of wills between bat and ball in Mumbai. Deepti Patwardhan reports.

cricket Updated: Dec 03, 2009 00:27 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

After the dud wickets in Ahmedabad and Kanpur and the exercise of heaping runs, Test cricket was back to a battle of wills between bat and ball in Mumbai. Brabourne's return to the biggest stage after 36 long years was marked, not by raucous crowds or thunderous applause, but by an intriguing day of cricket.

With the wicket doing a lot more than expected, Sri Lanka edged into a slight advantage. They gathered 366 for eight on the opening day of the third Test against India. Trailing 0-1 in the series, the visitors have to win this match to draw level and record their first Test victory on Indian soil.

Tillakaratne Dilshan (109) and Tharanga Paranavithana (53) manifested Sri Lanka's resolve in a solid opening partnership of 93. The latter started with a text-book boundary through covers off Zaheer Khan and continued in the same vein. All the talk about conditions favouring swing bowlers in the first hour, at least, was put to rest as the visitors methodically deconstructed India's new ball bowlers. While Zaheer Khan was ineffective, S Sreesanth was guilty of bowling too short.

The pacers, though, came back stronger in the subsequent spells. Sreesanth, who didn't have the same control that got him six wickets in Kanpur, bowled a second spell of one for seven in five overs. Zaheer, meanwhile, bowled with more intent with the second new ball, beating the bat and claiming the wicket of Prasanna Jayawardene.

With the pitch providing bounce and excessive turn for a first-day track, Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha made the most of it, claiming six of the eight wickets to fall. Harbhajan, who brought India their first success in the form of Paranavithana's wicket, finished with figures of four for 107 from 29 overs. The off-spinner would be happy to be back among the wickets but India might be worried about batting second on this track against the experienced Lankan spinners.

Though India were able to take wickets, they could not stem the flow of runs. Sri Lanka strung together the little partnerships that made the scorecard look solid at the end of the day's play.

Dilshan and the young Angelo Mathews gave the Indian bowlers an eye for an eye to keep the fight alive. Dilshan, who has found a niche for himself at the top of the order, scored his second hundred of the series. A century, he later admitted, which was a lot more satisfying than the one on the flat track in Ahmedabad.

There were doubts raised over the selection of Mathews in the playing eleven for the Test, but the youngster repaid his captain, Kumara Sangakkara’s faith with a mature innings.

He took over from Dilshan, scoring a patient 86 not out from 119 runs.