Dravid joins the party as India take stranglehold

Lanka face uphill battle to save game

Dravid joins the party as India  take stranglehold


Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid acknowledges the crowd after scoring a century at Kanpur on Wednesday. AP

Rangana Herath (5/121) provided the first indication that the bowlers will have an increasingly significant say in the second Test, polishing off the Indian tail with a tremendous late burst; by close of the second day’s play on Wednesday, Harbhajan Singh and debutant Pragyan Ojha lent further credence to the widely held belief that the Green Park surface will deteriorate significantly over the next three days, magnifying the enormity of the task that confronts Sri Lanka.

All Herath’s five-wicket haul did was to ensure that India’s first dig ended at a gargantuan 642 after Rahul Dravid had become the third centurion of the innings. Sri Lanka survived several anxious moments, including the first-ball dismissal of Tillakaratne Dilshan, to finish on 66 for one, 377 shy of making India bat again.

Buoyed by Dilshan’s leading edge to mid-on to put Zaheer Khan in business straightaway, India maintained relentless pressure. The left-arm paceman was in his elements and S Sreesanth wasn’t far behind as Tharanga Paranavitana and Kumar Sangakkara were kept honest. The arrival of Harbhajan, and spin, triggered excitement in the stands on another well-attended day; neither the offie nor his left-arm spinning partner disappointed, both distinctly unlucky not to pick up at least one wicket each.
Not unaware that the bounce would become uneven and the ball would start to turn, India’s batsmen were determined to tighten the screws when Dravid (144, 281m, 226b, 15x4, 1x6) and Sachin Tendulkar resumed on 417 for two. The frenetic rate of scoring of the previous day impossible to maintain, the duo gathered runs meticulously as Sangakkara put men on the ropes to cut out boundaries and slow down the pace of the game.

Overnight 85, Dravid quickly got ton number 28 out of the way with a rasping off-drive off Chanaka Welegedara, and then proceeded to bat with the same positive intent of the previous Test, when he made a sparkling 177. Tendulkar’s desperation to get on top of Ajantha Mendis spelt his downfall as he holed out to deep mid-off a little after being dropped on 30 by Dilshan, but Dravid was in a class of his own, shimmying down the track to Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, and treating Herath with utter disdain.
VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh played their parts as India piled on the runs, and the agony, but there was no mistaking who the boss was. Increasingly unrecognisable as the stubborn right-hander who until recently placed a premium largely on occupation of the crease, Dravid kept the score board ticking over with imperious elegance.
A twinkle-toed destroyer of spin bowling, the Bangalore right-hander had kept his positive instincts in check for a long time, taking the task of shoring up the Indian batting a little too seriously. In the autumn of his career, he is beginning to express himself a lot more, and that has made for wonderful viewing.

His nifty footwork wasn’t restricted to dancing down the track; the 36-year-old used the depth of the crease too exceptionally well, rocking back to repeatedly blast Muralitharan through the covers as the runs started to flow again after the initial lull.
Dravid eventually fell the only way he could have been dismissed, run out as Herath, almost taking evasive action, deflected a Laxman straight drive on to the stumps at the non-striker’s end. An unfortunate end to a superb innings, a shame there was no deserved double ton.

Laxman and Yuvraj put on 102, before the former fell trying to clear the infield and providing Herath his first success, in his 27th over. That was enough for the left-arm spinner with a ‘carrom ball’ mean enough as Mendis’ to get stuck into the Indians.
In a final spell of 11-2-18-5, he lopped off the lower order in great haste, bamboozling Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan with arm balls and trapping Sreesanth in front with a delivery that shot through on pitching and, more importantly, kept low. The Indians will be eyeing similar strikes of their own on the morrow.

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