Lankans lay base for huge total

Cricket : Third Test: Despite Indian bowlers best first-day show of the tour, hosts have the better of exchanges

Lankans lay base for huge total

Trapped him! Pragyan Ojha (centre) and VVS Laxman (left) celebrate the fall of Mahela Jayawardene on the opening day of the third Test. AP

Day one of the final Test at the P Sara Oval wasn’t anywhere near as lop-sided as it had been in the two previous matches. Where the script held true, however, was at the toss, and in the inability of India’s bowlers to make an impression on the batsmen.

A string of half-centuries from the top-order propelled the hosts to an impressive 293 for four when play was called off due to bad light, Sri Lanka clearly having the better of the exchanges against an inexperienced attack – minus Harbhajan Singh – that failed to cash in on the most helpful bowling conditions of the series so far.

The cloud cover that hung over the ground like a heavy drape for the entire day didn’t exactly assist Abhimanyu Mithun and Ishant Sharma in terms of swing, but both bowled with control and cleverness, unlucky not to have better returns to show.

The spinners weren’t in the same league, even if Pragyan Ojha did impress during a second spell of 11-2-23-1 after repeatedly straying on to the pads during an extended 15-over first bowl. Leggie Amit Mishra, in his first match of the series, was the big letdown, offering not even a semblance of a threat, sending down six no-balls, and being warned twice for running on the pitch, thus finding himself one warning away from taking no further part in the innings.

Sri Lanka sussed up the situation perfectly, as they should have given their familiarity with the conditions, and knuckled down to bat India out of the contest. Apart from skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who carried forward his imperious form with a classy half-century, the Lankan batting was less about adventure and more about accumulation, even the normally intrepid Tillakaratne Dilshan knuckling down in deference to team needs.

Promising start
Despite Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s continued misery at the toss – he called wrong for the third straight time this series – India began promisingly when Tharanga Paranavitana, coming off centuries in the last two Tests, perished early. Ishant, wasteful with the new ball in Galle and at the SSC, adjusted his length and made the ball wobble around, producing a beauty in the fourth over that shaped away just a touch and caught the left-hander’s edge on its way to the ’keeper.

Dilshan’s early flourish was negated by the accuracy of Mithun and Ishant, but when spin arrived in the shape of Mishra, Sangakkara quickly displayed twinkle toes to immediately take the fight to the leggie. Despite the ball turning, and bouncing, Mishra never settled into a rhythm, clearly put off by Sangakkara’s use of the feet and his willingness to go over the top.

India’s big chance to put the hosts under pressure came in the 16th over, Mithun producing a peach from round the stumps that threatened to come back in but straightened, squared up Sangakkara and found the outside edge. The ball was travelling at nice height and pace to VVS Laxman at second slip when Suresh Raina – keeping his place ahead of Yuvraj Singh – made a needless grasp to his right.
Both the ball and India’s hopes spilt out, Mithun letting out an anguished cry as Sangakkara, then 23 out of 59 for one, lived to fight another day.

The skipper was the dominant partner in successive stands of 87 (100m, 126b) with Dilshan and 55 (73m, 113b) with Mahela Jayawardene, the first ending when Murali Vijay at silly-point showed great alacrity and the second when Sangakkara tonked Ojha down long-on’s throat.

Thilan Samaraweera joined Jayawardene in the third consecutive meaningful association, this time of 84 (114m, 187b), marked by the felicity, soft hands and sure feet with which the occasionally dangerous Ojha and the largely lacklustre Mishra were handled. Dhoni strangely kept Virender Sehwag out of the attack till the 70th over despite Mishra’s travails, though it required an error in judgement from Rod Tucker for India to procure their fourth wicket, Jayawardene adjudged leg before when the bounce would comfortably have taken the ball above the stumps.

SCOREBOARD

SRI LANKA (I Innings):
Paranavitana c Dhoni b Ishant    8
(17m, 15b, 2x4)
Dilshan (run out)    41
(118m, 70b, 4x4)
Sangakkara c Sehwag b Ojha    75
(173m, 114b, 5x4, 2x6)
M Jayawardene lbw Ojha    56
(188m, 154b, 3x4)
Samaraweera (batting)    65
(172m, 143b, 6x4)
Mathews (batting)    26
(57m, 39b, 3x4)

Extras (B-4, LB-2, W-2, NB-14)    22
Total (for 4 wkts, 86.5 overs)    293

Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Paranavitana), 2-102 (Dilshan), 3-157 (Sangakkara), 4-241 (M Jayawardene).

Bowling: Mithun 17.5-2-57-0 (w-2), Ishant 15-4-49-1 (nb-3), Mishra 25-1-99-0 (nb-6), Ojha 26-2-78-2 (nb-4), Sehwag 3-0-4-0 (nb-1).

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