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India on Cloud Nine, SL in tailspin

With the victory in the final Test, India sealed the 3-match series 2-0. Scorecard

india Updated: Dec 23, 2005 03:18 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

One of the very few subjects of interest left in the final Test was what the terminators in the Indian ranks would cap their milestone matches with. Possibilities allowed a five-wicket haul for Anil Kumble and 10 wickets for the match for Harbhajan Singh.

Showing just the kind of chemistry between them that makes one of the deadliest pair of bowlers Indian cricket has seen, the veteran said cheers to his 100th Test by achieving the feat for the 31st time, while his partner in preying on batsmen celebrated his 50th cap with his fourth 10-wicket haul.

With these two operating smoothly, the end often gets hastened and the last four Sri Lankan wickets were uprooted in 45 balls and about 20 minutes into the fifth morning for India to complete a 2-0 series win in the three-Test series after the opening washout in Chennai.

This was not only India's fourth win in four uninterrupted Tests with Greg Chappell as coach and joyous restart after the ouster of the country’s most successful Test captain, but also a boost ahead of what will surely be a different and difficult ball game in Pakistan.

There were quite a few good scores with VVS Laxman, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni contributing significantly at the Kotla and here. It should still not be unfair on them to say what made the difference between the teams -- Kumble and Harbhajan accounting for 31 of the 40 wickets India required to win the two Tests.

Virender Sehwag's remark after the match that his debut as Test captain was trouble-free thanks to the spinners was not mere courtesy.

Day 1: VVS comes up with timely special 
Day 2: Bhajji strangulates Sri Lankans

Day 3: Bhajji, Yuvi put Lanka on mat 
Day 4: Now, India ready for the kill 

“It becomes a lot easier when these two get going. And otherwise, teammates made my job easy on the first day by making sure that we would get 250-300 on this wicket."

Sehwag also said that Sanath Jayasuriya's absence was a factor. He has done well against us in Tests and one-dayers. Sure Sri Lanka missed him and it was good for us. The fact the we played Murali positively was also significant."

It's easy to say that among other things which tilted the balance in favour of the Indians was their handling of Muttiah Muralitharan. That would be telling half the story though because the most lethal of spinners cricket has seen never had the kind of total behind him to pressurise the Indians in conditions they know best.

“Yes, the Indians played Murali well, with Pathan handling him the best. But it's also true that the Indians succeeded in getting the best of situations for their spinners after winning the toss on two occasions. It's batting that let us down. Probably because of lack of concentration we suffered too many collapses," said Marvan Atapattu.

Coach Tom Moody was more articulate in his analysis. “To win Test matches we have to compete on all five days. We were not in the game for more than half the match in both Tests. We had our chances but lacked the killer instinct and allowed them to come back from difficult situations."

The Aussie whose team has done miserably against Chappell's boys after beating them in three one-dayers early in the season felt what helped India apart from Kumble and Harbhajan was their patience and persistence.

Asked about the difference between the team which found Sri Lanka a hard nut to crack in their backyards before grinding them to dust at home, Moody said: “They have been solid confident and seem to be enjoying their cricket. But this is one series…Time will tell."

That was a key point. India's real test and the first genuine test of the team under Chappell begin on January 6 when the team boards the plane to Pakistan. There is no short camp before departure and that should give the players time to recover ahead of what must be high-intensity version of one of cricket's most bitter rivalries.

First Published: Dec 22, 2005 10:19 IST