The National: India moved into a position of strength on the third day of the second Test after Harbhajan Singh’s six-wicket haul had skittled out Sri Lanka 37 runs short of the visitor’s first inning total.
India were 200-4 when bad light stopped play early, extending their lead to 237 with six second innings wickets in hand on a pitch that is expected to favour the spin bowlers in the next two days.
Sri Lanka resuming on 215-5 lost their remaining five wickets for 77 runs to finish on 292 and the Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir pushed the advantage with a 90-run stand.
The partnership ended when Sehwag, going for a full-blooded cover drive against Chaminda Vaas, was brilliantly picked up by Tillekaratne Dilshan who held a head-high catch at short cover.
Sehwag got off to his customary explosive start and hit six fours and one six in his 52-ball knock half century.
Gambhir was bowled by Ajantha Mendis for 74 when he left a ball that took the top of off-stump.
He hit ten fours and his dismissal brought Sachin Tendulkar at the crease. Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid got their eye in, but left in quick succession minutes before play ended early owing to bad light.
Vaas had Sachin Tendulkar caught by Mahela Jayawardene at slip for 31 and Dravid followed, adjudged leg before for 44 by the third umpire against a full ball from spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who bowled 21 overs to get his first wicket.
Gambhir said he was disappointed that he missed out on a possible hundred but added that he was pleased with the end of the day’s play.
“We have set the game up for our bowlers and it won’t be easy to see the pitch as a batting track. We need just one more partnership and a target of 350 can set the game up for us”, said the left handed opener.
The Sri Lanka skipper Jayawardene acknowledged that India were at an advantage at the end of the day but hinted that his team was just a wicket or two away from making a contest of it.
“If we can get some early wickets (on the fourth day) then we can be in it,” said Jayawardene. “We are looking for possibilities to get back and we can get even 400 (to win). That’s the attitude we have.”
Earlier, Jayawardene top scored for the Sri Lankans, who batted laboriously in the first session of play to push the first innings total as close as possible to India’s 329. The Sri Lankan skipper faced 188 deliveries for his 86 that contained 10 hits to the fence.
The India captain Anil Kumble made his first impression of the tour by claiming three wickets. He struck twice in successive overs to remove overnight batsman Prasanna Jayawardene and Vaas, and later had his counterpart caught behind by Dinesh Karthik, who took a sharp catch on his second attempt.
Courtesy The National, UAE.