Lanka expose Indian inadequacies

Lanka expose Indian inadequacies

I did it: Tharanga Paranavitana celebrates after reaching his maiden Test ton in Galle on Sunday. AFPKumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s captain, found an able understudy in fellow left-handed centurion Tharanga Paranavitana on day one of the first Test at the Galle International stadium as the hosts commenced their bid to give Muttiah Muralitharan the perfect send-off on a promising note.

Despite the loss of more than an hour and a half due to a combination of a wet outfield, poor light and lashing rains, Sri Lanka finished Sunday on a healthy 256 for two, an effort that has already pushed the visitors on to the back foot.

Barring the 20-year-old Abhimanyu Mithun, extremely impressive on Test debut, and to a lesser extent the indefatigable Harbhajan Singh who made light of the lingering ill-effects of the flu, India’s bowling seldom asked questions of the Lankan batsmen on a surface that wore a damp look when play began 30 minutes behind schedule, but quickly eased out into a batting beauty.

Unfortunate
Ishant Sharma might have been slightly unfortunate at the start to find the edge only for the ball to rocket away to the third-man fence, but otherwise, he looked some way short of the explosive tyro of two years back. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, expected to stem the flow of runs and send down long spells given Harbhajan’s physical condition, was an even bigger disappointment, repeatedly erring in both length and direction and going for nearly four an over in his 17 overs.

Sri Lanka have never needed a second invitation in their own backyard. Not unaware of the lightness of India’s bowling in the absence of the seasoned Zaheer Khan, they came hard at the opposition in the immediacy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni calling wrong at the toss, the normally phlegmatic Paranavitana (110 n.o., 283m, 229b, 12x4) the early aggressor even as Mithun tied up Tillakaratne Dilshan in knots.

Torrid time
No praise can be too high for the manner in which Mithun embraced Test cricket. There were few signs of nerves, and fewer indications that he was intimidated by the opposition. He gave Dilshan a torrid working over, got the ball to jag around and produced a sharp bouncer to elicit a glove off an attempted pull just when Dilshan was beginning to look dangerous, his first Test wicket sending the young man into raptures.
He eventually had just that wicket to show for his efforts, but both he and the team management will have taken heart from his commitment and his execution of skills, a wonderful sign given India’s laboured quest for consistent seam support to Zaheer.
Mithun and Harbhajan alone brooked careful watching. Otherwise, Paranavitana and Sangakkara (103, 198m, 145b, 12x4) were in a position to do their bidding for the most part. The 28-year-old opener pulled back after his aggressive start, while Sangakkara clicked into overdrive from the off, an edgy initiation all too brief as he found Ojha’s freebies to his liking. The left-arm spinner, however, didn’t enjoy bowling regularly with seven men on the on-side, what with the batsmen having enough time to draw away and play against whatever little turn there might have been with grace and regularity.

Lacklustre fielding
India didn’t help their cause by not providing adequate fielding support to their beleaguered bowlers. The fielding was lacklustre, half-chances went agonisingly abegging and Dhoni spilt a Sangakkara inside-edge off Virender Sehwag when 65, lapses they could ill afford under the circumstances.

Paranavitana and Sangakkara put the occasional misadventure immediately behind them with the same felicity as they put the not infrequent diet of bad balls away. Sangakkara was the master, driving on the up and pulling ferociously, while Paranavitana was more the nurdler and the tickler, favouring the off-side heavily but not exclusively.
Sangakkara was the first to three-figures, for the 22nd time, and then saw his younger partner through to his first Test hundred.

India had just about reconciled to further punishment when the captain pulled a Sehwag long-hop down deep mid-wicket’s throat after a stand of 181 (198m, 308b). A little later came bad light, a heavy downpour and the abandonment of play. What relief!

Score board
SRI LANKA (I Innings):
Paranavitana (batting)    110
(283m, 229b, 12x4)
Dilshan c Dhoni b Mithun    25
(24b, 6x4)
S’kkara c Tendulkar b Sehwag    103
(198m, 145b, 12x4)
M Jayawardene (batting)    8
(30m, 14b, 1x4)
Extras (LB-6, NB-4)    10
Total (for 2 wkts, 68 overs)    256
Fall of wickets: 1-55 (Dilshan), 2-236 (Sangakkara).
Bowling: Ishant 14-3-79-0 (nb-4), Mithun 13-2-41-1, Harbhajan 17-3-41-0, Ojha 17-1-66-0, Sehwag 7-0-23-1.

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