Monday 11 August 2008 

Sri Lanka Take Series Win With Eight-Wicket Triumph

Sri Lanka overcame the loss of two early wickets to seal the Test series against India 2-1 with an eight-wicket win in the deciding match in Colombo.

Chasing 122 to win, captan Mahela Jayawardene (50 not out) hit the winning runs as he and Malinda Warnapura (54 not out) finished on unbeaten half-centuries after India had reduced the home side to 22 for two early on in the final innings.

Michael Vandort, who has been struggling for form in this series got the run chase off to a blistering start, as he smashed Zaheer Khan for two boundaries in the first over of the innings, the first one was a dismissive shot through mid wicket, the second a glorious straight drive.

India, in desperate need of early wickets, had Harbhajan Singh bowl the second over of the innings, and the off-spinner immediately made an impression as he bowled Vandort through the gate for eight, to give India a glimmer of hope.

Zaheer Khan provided India with a huge breakthrough when he dismissed first innings centurion Kumar Sangakkara for four. Sangakkara hit an off drive straight to Gambhir at mid off, and his wicket left Sri Lanka in a spot of bother at 22 for two.

The Sri Lankans were tied down by some accurate bowling, indeed it took Mahela Jayawardene 18 balls to get off the mark. However, slowly but surely Malinda Warnapura and Jayawardene appeared to be consolidating Sri Lanka’s innings and getting the home team back on track for a series victory.

Soon after tea, Warnapura brought up the half-century partnership between himself and his captain with an expansive sweep shot to midwicket off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh as Sri Lanka moved within touching distance of victory.

Jayawardene brought up Sri Lanka’s 100 with a delicate sweep shot off the bowling of Sehwag, and two overs later Warnapura played a similar shot to register his half-century to take Sri Lanka towards victory - Jayawardene both bringing up his half-century and winning the game with a square cut for four.

Earlier, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman hit gritty half-centuries but India were bowled out for 268 in their second innings leaving the home side a modest target for the series win.

They resumed on 161 for five, 14 runs ahead, and in desperate need of a partnership of substance. Dravid brought up his 50 when he struck a glorious cover drive off the bowling of Ajantha Mendis.

Dravid brought up the half-century partnership up between himself and Laxman when he worked Dammika Prasad into the offside for a single.

Dravid ran a loose delivery from Muralitharan down to third man for a couple of runs to bring up India’s 200 and the resilience of Dravid and Laxman was starting to frustrate the Sri Lankan players and supporters alike.

Mendis finally ended the partnership between Dravid and Laxman when Dravid (68), was caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip. The partnership was one that threatened to get India back into the game, however the wicket put Sri Lanka firmly in control of proceedings once again.

Laxman, clearly hampered by an ankle injury which required a runner in Gautam Gambhir, knuckled down and brought up a valiant half-century, when he worked Muttiah Muralitharan to fine leg for a single. Much now rested on the shoulders of the man from Hyderabad if India were to take anything from this match and indeed the series.

India were in even more trouble when captain Anil Kumble (nine) was adjudged lbw off the bowling of Muralitharan. Kumble, who had passes 5,500 runs in first-class matches shortly beforehand, did challenge the decision but was unsuccessful.

Harbhajan Singh continued to play in an aggressive fashion after lunch as he struck consecutive boundaries off the bowling of Mendis, the second of which brought up India’s 250.

Chaminda Vaas picked up his first wicket of the match and only his fifth of the series when he trapped Harbhajan in front for a useful 26. to leave India 266 for eight.

Laxman worked Vaas into the offside for a single to bring up his 6,000th run in Test Match cricket.

Zaheer Khan, who played so well in the first innings was then run out for nought and Ishant Sharma (nought) was not able to spend any meaningful time in the middle and give Laxman the support that he desperately needed. Sharma was caught by Warnapura off the bowling of Muralitharan, as India were bowled out for 268, setting Sri Lanka a seemingly straightforward target of 122.

Laxman was left stranded on 61.

India were bowled out for 249 in the first innings before Sri Lanka posted 396, Kumar Sangakkara hitting 144.

The series was level at 1-1 after India scored a 170-run win in Galle to bounce back from an innings defeat in Colombo.

Aaron Kumar
© Cricket World 2008