Tons of joy from Viru, Gambhir

Tons of joy from Viru, Gambhir

Tons of joy from Viru, Gambhir

Few men complement each other as well as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir do. The explosive right-hander and the diminutive left-hander share an uncanny sense of understanding, one of the more striking features of a very successful association.
It was at Green Park, in November 2004, that the duo first announced its arrival by putting on 218 against South Africa. On day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka, they went one better as India amassed their highest total in a single day’s play in Test history.

On their way to a mesmerising 233-run (181m, 251b) opening salvo, Sehwag and Gambhir became only the sixth set of Indian openers to score a century in the same innings, setting the platform for an intimidating end-of-day score of 417 for two.

Bowlers’ moments
That tally would suggest another flat, benign batting beauty, but that needn’t necessarily be the truth. The bowlers had their moments – and will have even more as the match wears on – but the quality of the Indian batting and the lack of discipline of the Lankan attack pushed the visitors on to the back foot and turbo-charged the home team to a position of great command.

Sri Lanka’s decision to go with a three-pronged spin attack was perhaps the only option available to them after Dammika Prasad was felled by a hamstring injury, but first Sehwag and Gambhir, and then Rahul Dravid with equal felicity, negated the designs of Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and the returning Ajantha Mendis in some style.
That, collectively, the trio conceded 278 runs in 55 overs, and failed to send down a single maiden, merely highlights Kumar Sangakkara’s plight on a most forgettable day for the Sri Lankan captain. His spinners bowled on both sides of the wicket and the fielding was surprisingly lacklustre, but nothing hurt Sri Lanka more than the early gift they offered Sehwag.

A combination of a fresh surface and early moisture meant Chanaka Welegedara and Angelo Mathews brooked careful initial watching. Sri Lanka should have got off to the perfect start imaginable in the very first over when Sehwag threw his bat at Welegedara and only managed a thick outside edge.

Bad miss
But wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene dived in front of Mahela Jayawardene at first slip, completely blinding his team-mate who really had no chance of holding on to the catch. Then nought out of one without loss, Sehwag scratched around briefly, keeping his attacking instincts well in check, even as Gambhir played with the confidence and assurance of a man with three hundreds in his last three Tests.

Sehwag had limped to six off 26 deliveries when Mathews bowled a juicy half-volley, promptly dispatched to the cover fence. A click ensued, the mindset changed, gears were shifted and the score board rattled along as Sehwag and Gambhir, in that order, thoroughly entertained a massive crowd.

Sehwag’s assault on Mendis was matched for effect by Gambhir’s adroit footwork as he walked down the track to pacers and spinners alike. The first hint of spin stoked the aggressive juices of both men, who set about dismantling the potential threat of the turning ball with brazen but calculated brilliance.

Runs came at breakneck pace. 131 were posted by lunch in 26 overs; the second session yielded 176 in 33! Post his half-century, Sehwag raced away to a 16th Test century and his first since Galle in August last year before providing the Lankans with some respite when he drove Muralitharan to cover.

Dravid’s display
Dravid came out and batted with as much authority as Gambhir at the other end. A wonderful off-drive took the left-hander to his seventh century in his last nine Tests, and it needed a spectacular return catch by Muralitharan after a partnership of 137 (116m, 203b) to prevent him from reaching his second double ton.
India, who made two changes by bringing in S Sreesanth and handing a Test debut for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha at the expense of Ishant Sharma and birthday boy Amit Mishra respectively, will now strive to cash in the advantage courtesy an exhilarating display of batsmanship.