Island Cricket

Friday, August 1, 2008

AFP: Harbhajan jolts Sri Lankan cricketers on spinners' day

GALLE, Sri Lanka (AFP) — Harbhajan Singh bagged four quick wickets in a magnificent spell to put Sri Lanka under pressure in the second Test against India here on Friday.

The off-spinner (4-71) removed well-set Kumar Sangakkara and Malinda Warnapura in successive overs before Sri Lanka struggled to reach 215-5 in their first innings at stumps in reply to India's 329 on the second day.

Sangakkara (68) and Warnapura (66) helped Sri Lanka overcome the third-ball dismissal of Michael Vandort with a 133-run stand for the second wicket before Harbhajan struck to restore India's fortunes on a spinners' day.

Skipper Mahela Jayawardene was unbeaten on 46 and Prasanna Jayawardene on five not out at the close of play.

"We are in a good position to control the match tomorrow," said Harbhajan.

"We have to repeat our performance, take catches and bowl in the right areas as we did today. If we take a couple of early wickets, the tail will start.

"We are happy with our efforts today, but it would have been nice to get more runs in the first innings."

India were bowled out on the stroke of lunch after resuming at 214-4, with explosive opener Virender Sehwag (201 not out) becoming only the second Indian after Sunil Gavaskar to carry his bat through the innings.

Sehwag also became the 10th Indian to complete 5,000 Test runs during his fifth score of 200 and more, including two triple-centuries. He hit four sixes and 22 fours in his 231-ball knock.

The Indian batsmen, especially Sehwag, were involved in an engrossing duel with Sri Lanka's unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis (6-117), who took a maiden haul of five or more wickets in an innings in only his second Test.

Sri Lanka then got a dose of their own medicine as they were jolted by Harbhajan, who had Warnapura caught by Gautam Gambhir at short point and then held a return catch to account for Sangakkara.

Harbhajan then bagged two wickets in the space of four balls when he trapped Thilan Samaraweera (14) leg-before and had Tillakaratne Dilshan caught by a diving Gambhir at short-leg.

Warnapura exploded with a flurry of boundaries early in the innings, hitting left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan for four successive fours. He struck one six and 10 fours in his third half-century in six Tests.

The runs came thick and fast as Sangakkara also executed handsome shots against pace and spin, hitting nine fours in his 26th Test half-century.

He gave a chance immediately after completing his fifty, but wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik failed to hold the catch off Harbhajan.

India's other wicket-taker was Zaheer, who had Vandort (four) caught by Rahul Dravid at third slip before Sangakkara and Warnapura steadied the innings.

India's batting in the morning revolved around Sehwag, who kept dominating the Sri Lankan attack despite the fall of wickets from the other end. The tourists lost their last six wickets for 51 runs.

Sehwag, 128 overnight, alone succeeded in solving the Mendis puzzle with his aggressive approach, lofting the bowler for two sixes. He received support only from Venkatsai Laxman (39), extending the fifth-wicket stand to 100.

Mendis, who took just two wickets for 74 runs on Thursday, came back strongly to ensure Sehwag-inspired India did not post a big total. He gave away just 43 runs for his four wickets in the morning.

"He (Mendis) is a very good bowler and has got lot of variations. Bowlers like him are good for the game," said Harbhajan.

The Indian cricketers wore black armbands in memory of former Test batsman Ashok Mankad, who died in Mumbai on Friday.

Sri Lanka lead 1-0 in the three-Test series after winning the opening match by an innings and 239 runs in Colombo.


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