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Day 4: Sri Lanka get tangled in spin web

Deadly spin bowling by Kumble and Harbhajan saw the visitors struggling at 123/5 at stumps on Day 4. Scorecard

india Updated: Dec 14, 2005 10:04 IST

It has been a Test match of twists and turns, some expected and some not. Take the fourth day's play for instance. Tuesday at the Kotla was to be a day when India hoped to sniff victory but till the last half-hour of play, the Sri Lankans were very much alive.

The match was nicely set up for India. Ahead by 297 runs, they did nothing wrong in the morning. But for a while in the afternoon, when Marvan Atapattu was stroking his way out of trouble, it did look like India would find it difficult to win easily.

But once Anil Kumble changed ends, it all changed in the space of three balls. The master of control had the Sri Lankan captain beaten in the air and took a difficult return catch and two balls later, had Bandara leg-before. And when Harbhajan Singh too got into the act, it was all over for the Lankans. A victory for India is now a matter of time. When on Wednesday, and not how, is the question now.

The one disappointment, that is, if you can call it so, was Sourav Ganguly's failing to make a major score, especially after having done the spadework with diligence and concentration. He played out the tempting off-stump line of Dilhara Fernando without falling into the trap for an hour in the morning. After having seen that difficult period off though, he fell while attempting to step up the tempo.

India needn't have worried though, as his fall meant that Mahendra Singh Dhoni got a chance to chance his arm. He did that with aplomb, slogging the ball with stunning power and timing.

But the man who played an innings of intimidating aggression was Yuvraj Singh. His wristy play on the on-side, his driving on the off and his slashes to point bore the authority of a batsman who needs to be in the Indian side not as a replacement but as one in his own right. It is a ticklish problem as Ganguly, despite failing to score big, has shown that he can bat and stay at the wicket for a long period.

Whatever India may have done or not done, the one thing that stood out in this Test is Rahul Dravid’s leadership qualities.

The more you watch him the more impressed your are by his positive intent. He is a man who does not wait for things to happen. He is always on the lookout for innovative ways of pressurising the batsmen and looks every inch a man who knows his and his opponents' mind.

There is nothing defensive about him. Unlike his batting - and that too is changing - he attacks all the time and keeps on thinking of new ways to ruffle a set player. He has the mind of a chess player, who is constantly plotting the next move that will pin down his opponent.

Take for instance the timing of his declaration. He gave his opponents 141 overs and more than four-and-a-half sessions in which to score 436 runs to win. On a track that, on day four, was not looking all that difficult to bat on. Conversely, he gave his bowlers enough time to plot Lanka's doom. Make no mistake; Dravid has all the makings of becoming one of the truly outstanding captains of our time. The Sri Lankans first had to contend with the skills of Irfan Pathan, who got the first breakthrough for India.

And then came another long productive period for the batsmen. Kumar Sangakkara looked in dangerous touch, driving and punching the ball with beautiful control, while Atapattu played yet another innings of grace and elegance. The wicket appeared to have died down so much that even if the ball was keeping low, the batsmen had enough time to dig it out. The turn too seemed to have become so slow that even Kumble looked ineffective.

But then, all of a sudden, under the lengthening shadows at the ground, Kumble came alive and so did the crowd.

Day 1: Sachin races past Sunny, smashes 35th ton 
Day 2: Kumble brings India back in contest 
Day 3: Pathan puts India in command 

First Published: Dec 13, 2005 09:58 IST