India dance to Sanga-Mahela duet

Last Updated 27 July 2010, 18:32 IST

The Sinhalese Sports Club strip has been a most trusted ally over the years for Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara and his predecessor – also bizarrely his deputy now – Mahela Jayawardene.

In another example of just how much at home the two feel here, the duo destroyed Indian spirits and confidence with a command display on an absolute shirtfront.

Sangakkara notched up his seventh Test double ton and Jayawardene (174, 358m, 240b, 20x4, 1x6) blazed into the record books with an unprecedented tenth hundred at a single venue. By the time the declaration came, Sri Lanka had rattled along to a mammoth 642 for four.

Not too many sides possess the wherewithal to respond to that total with aggression. India, though, are blessed to have the uncomplicated Virender Sehwag, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s deputy knows only one way to bat.

On Tuesday evening, despite have spent more than 10 and a half hours on the park, Sehwag showed few signs of fatigue. More importantly, he showed a huge sense of responsibility on his way to a run-a-ball half-century. Aided by the classical correctness of Murali Vijay, Sehwag ensured that India had accrued 95 of the 443 required to avoid the follow on in 18 overs that produced few alarms, setting the base for the formidable middle-order to build on.

The foundation for Sri Lanka had already been set on day one, which they finished on 312 for two. When play resumed on Tuesday, it was always a case of how many Sangakkara believed was enough, because there was little danger of India making serious inroads.

Sangakkara (219, 399m, 335b, 29x4) set the tempo with three boundaries off the day’s first over from Abhimanyu Mithun, a trend that continued at frequent intervals as he scored boundaries in a clutch. Jayawardene, by contrast, was subdued and at far from his best, but he has played enough to know when he is on to a good thing and therefore how to put mind over matter.

The skipper and his great mate bat superbly in tandem, their understanding impeccable and their ability to read situations exemplary. It didn’t need a rocket scientist to figure out that Indian morale was at an all-time low, and that there was little devil in the surface.

India had no answers to the aggressive approach of the left- and right-handed stylists, neither a negative line nor the heavily guarded boundaries doing anything to staunch the flow of runs. Disturbingly from an Indian perspective, both Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha failed to maintain a semblance of control.

Admittedly, the margin for error against two set batsmen was minimal, but neither spinner so much as strung even a couple of maidens together. If anyone was uncertain what the true import of toying with the bowling is, SSC would have been a good place to be on Tuesday.

Sangakkara deserved better than an edged boundary to third man to reach 200, thus drawing level with Wally Hammond on seven Test double tons. Only Brian Lara (9) and Sir Don Bradman (12) have made more doubles, a wonderful testament to the Sri Lankan skipper’s class and durability.

No one, of course, has made more runs at one venue than Jayawardene at the SSC. On Tuesday, Jayawardene eclipsed The Don for most centuries at a single ground, his tenth ton putting to shade Bradman’s nine in ten Tests at the MCG. As India wilted, Sri Lanka upped the ante until a tired slash at a Sehwag quicker delivery signalled Sangakkara’s departure, Rahul Dravid alert enough at first slip to hold on to the sharp chance and terminate a stand of 193 (208m, 304b).

Thilan Samaraweera helped himself to easy pickings, flogging a dead horse, while Jayawardene batted at his best after getting to three-figures, the pair adding a further 176 (149m, 223b) when the former skipper ended Harbhajan’s 448-ball wait for a wicket with a tame flick to mid-wicket. That brought about the declaration. Now, it’s for India to build on Sehwag’s declaration of intent.

Score Board

SRI LANKA (I Innings, O/n: 312/2):
Paranavitana b Ishant    100
(276m, 221b, 10x4, 1x6)
Dilshan c Laxman b Ojha    54
(85m, 42b, 10x4)
Sangakkara c Dravid b Sehwag    219
(399m, 335b, 29x4)
M Jaya’ene c Raina b Har’jan    174
(358m, 240b, 20x4, 1x6)
Samaraweera (not out)    76
(149m, 120b, 8x4)

Extras (B-4, LB-8, W-2, NB-5) 19

Total (for 4 wkts decl, 159.4 overs) 642

Fall of wickets: 1-99 (Dilshan), 2-273 (Paranavitana), 3-466 (Sangakkara), 4-642 (M Jayawardene).

Bowling: Abhimanyu Mithun 23-5-117-0, Ishant Sharma 23-5-102-1 (nb-3), Pragyan Ojha 46-9-172-1 (nb-2), Harbhajan Singh 42.4-4-147-1 (w-2), Sehwag 20-0-71-1, Suresh Raina 5-0-21-0.

INDIA (I Innings):

Vijay (batting)    22
(95m, 50b, 4x4)
Sehwag (batting)    64
(95m, 63b, 12x4)

Extras (W-2, NB-7)    9

Total (for no loss, 18 overs)    95

Bowling: Prasad 3-0-27-0 (nb-3), Fernando 7-0-31-0 (w-1, nb-4), Mathews 4-0-13-0 (w-1), Randiv 3-1-15-0, Mendis 1-0-9-0.

(Published 27 July 2010, 06:03 IST)

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