Vaas inspires Sri Lankans’ Day 5

Three and a half days’ worth of play lost due to rain had long since proved more than sufficient to force a result out of the question in the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at Chennai – but as day five finally allowed the players 84 overs to express themselves, it was the tourists who came out on top.

The pitch quickened as it recovered from the week’s deluge, and Chaminda Vaas in particular exploited the condition expertly to strangle the Indian top order. The left-armer’s first eleven overs of the day were all maidens – he contributed three more and 30 out of the Sri Lankans’ 73 overs were scoreless, also removing Rahul Dravid early on, driving indiscretely to edge behind.

The was the beginning of the Indian collapse, as eight wickets fell for seventy runs to reduce the hosts to 167 all out, their lowest score against Sri Lanka. Tendulkar was trapped in front by a fizzing Muralitharan off-break, then Laxman left stranded on five following a mix-up with Ganguly, who himself chipped to Tillakaratne Dilshan in the covers for the same single-figure return.

Irfan Pathan – Murali’s record twenty-fourth caught-and-bowled test victim – and Ajit Agarkar, victim of more poor running, departed swiftly afterwards and only 31 for the ninth wicket between the experienced Anil Kumble and debutant Mahendra Dhoni saved the home side from further embarrasment. When Kumble fell to Vaas, the seamer’s fourth victim, the end was nigh – and Dhoni perished in the next over as he swatted leg-spinner Malinga Bandara to Avishka Gunawardene at long-on.

Sri Lanka’s reply began unconvincingly, the left-handed Gunawardene falling caught behind off Pathan in the very first over, but Kumar Sangakkara – surprisingly called upon to open the innings – and Mahela Jayawardene soon consolidated as the visitors took advantage of the improving conditions.

It was the veteran leg-spinner Kumble who was to take the only further wickets to fall, defeating both Sangakkara and captain Marvan Atapattu, both defeated by a lack of bounce in the still-difficult Chennai track, and having Mahela Jayawardene perhaps unjustly caught by Gautam Gambhir.

The other Indian bowlers found encouragement and wickets hard to come by, pseudo-all-rounder Saurav Ganguly coming in for the most severe punishment – his two first-change overs going for sixteen runs as Jayawardene shifted through the gears to impose maximum pain on the home team.

As Sri Lanka surpassed the hosts’ total, with Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera together at the middle, umpires Mark Benson and Daryl Harper called an end to an interesting but ultimately inconclusive and anticlimatic first Test. The teams resume battle on Saturday, December 10, when the next match in the series begins in New Delhi.

India 167
Virender Sehwag 36, Rahul Dravid 32
Chaminda Vaas 4/20, Muttiah Muralitharan 2/60

Sri Lanka 168/4
Mahela Jayawardene 71, Thilan Samaraweera 35*
Anil Kumble 3/41, Irfan Pathan 1/43

Match Drawn

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka) – 21-14-20-4

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