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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Great chance to clinch Test series

India stand a great chance to set the record straight and venture into the record books by winning a Test series in Lanka after 15 years, reports Anand Vasu.Mission Sri Lanka

cricket Updated: Aug 08, 2008 00:15 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times

If you want a throwback to the times fast being forgotten, stop by at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo at some point over the next five days.

At a time when people are building stadia that have retractable roofs and Beijing is showing the world just what rapid advances technology has made in the construction of arenas, this stadium is a sleepy reminder of a gentler time when the pace of life was less hectic.

The ground, home to the Tamil Union — one of the oldest institutions in Sri Lankan cricket — boasts of an ivy covered scorer's box, an old-fashioned manual scoreboard, and stands named after the legendary Mahadevan Satahasivan, a batsman Sir Don Bradman regarded as among the finest he had ever seen.

And yes, it is a ground steeped in history. It was here that Sri Lanka played their maiden Test, against England in 1982. It was also here that they recorded their first ever Test win, against Kapil Dev's Indians, by 149 runs in 1985.

Now, it’s India’s turn to try to set the record straight and venture into the record books themselves as they seek to complete a series win.

Time and again, Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, has spoken about just how proud his team are of their record at home. And it is no empty boast. Of the last 18 Tests Sri Lanka have played at home, they have won 12 and lost two.

In the last four years, the Sri Lankans have lost just two series at home, against Pakistan in 2006 and against Australia in 2004. But all that will not count for much as Anil Kumble will seek to build on the huge gains made in Galle. It’s not every day a visiting team goes into a final Test in Sri Lanka with a realistic chance of winning.

On the contrary, it does seem that every day Sachin Tendulkar is on the verge of some record or the other. When he takes the field on Friday, it will be for the 150th time in Tests.

Tendulkar’s batting in the nets over the last couple of days has been superlative, and on the eve of the game, the little man was in fine spirit, joking with teammates and needling bowlers even as he met each ball with the middle of his bat. He has only 75 runs in the series so far and still needs 97 to go past Brian Lara's for maximum Test runs. But don't be surprised if yet more history is created at the P Sara.

Both teams will make one change to their line-ups, with India leaving out Dinesh Karthik, who has been low on confidence and short on runs in the series. Parthiv Patel makes a comeback to Test cricket after being out in the cricketing wilderness for four years -- he was dropped after the Nagpur Test of 2004 against the Australians. Those who have seen Parthiv in domestic cricket since insist that he has become a much more safe wicketkeeper and in the Indian Premier League, it was clear that he has made strides as a batsman.

The Sri Lankans have to choose between Dammika Prasad and left-armer Thilan Thushara to partner Chaminda Vaas with the new ball. In Galle, it was clear that Nuwan Kulasekara, with his pace, was not going to pose too many problems for India's batsmen and Sri Lanka have chosen to go with someone who can hurry the ball through a bit more.

At the last moment, the pitch was shorn of all live grass, with groundsmen taking a scraper to scrub off every last blade. That said, it's still meant to be the most firm pitch on the island, and with India's pacemen working up some real steam in Galle, a smart contest is on the cards.


Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Michael Vandort, Malinda Warnapura, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Thilan Thushara/ Dammika Prasad.

India: Anil Kumble (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan.

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