Middle order collpase takes initiative away from India (Lead)

July 31st, 2008 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rex Clementine
Galle (Sri Lanka), July 31 (IANS) India’s top order crumbled in a dramatic fashion losing four wickets in the space of just 19 balls to surrender the initiative their opening pair had given them on the opening day of the second cricket Test against Sri Lanka at the Galle International Cricket Stadium here. When bad light forced an early end to play, the Indians were 214 for four, on a rain-interrupted day.

Coming to the coastal town trailing the series 1-0, the Indians adopted an aggressive approach and were on top as the openers added 167 runs for the first wicket in just 191 balls. Sehwag hit a typically aggressive unbeaten 128 while Gautam Gambhir struck 56. But what happened afterwards was real drama as the experienced middle order offered the Sri Lankans the control on a platter.

Sehwag reached his half-century in just 50 balls and missed out becoming only the fifth batsman to score hundred before lunch by just nine runs.

Victor Trumper, Don Bradman, Majid Khan and Charles McCartney had reached three figures before lunch in Tests and Sehwag, who was on 91 at the break, narrowly missed out on becoming the sixth man to score a hundred in one session. However, he soon reached his 15th Test hundred when play resumed in the afternoon after rain delay.

India looked a completely different side from the one that played the first Test as they reached 151 for none at lunch with both batsmen reaching half-centuries, whereas only V. V. S. Laxman managed to score a fifty in the first Test in Colombo.

Gambhir was let off on 13 when Kumar Sangakkara put one down as wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene distracted him by diving in front of him to deny Nuwan Kulasekara a wicket.

A brief shower during the lunch break caught the ground staff unawares. They failed to get the ground covered on time and that left several damp spots on the boundary area, causing a three-hour delay.

Eventually when play began at 4:30 pm, Sehwag needed just two strokes to get to his century. The 29-year-old swung Vaas for a six over long-on the second ball he faced after the interruption, and three balls later he drove firmly between the bowler and mid-off to reach his first hundred against the Sri Lankans and the third this year following his 151 against Australia in Adelaide and 319 against South Africa at Chennai.

It was then poor batting by the experienced Indian middle-orcer as they threw away their wickets needlessly to Ajantha Mendis and Vaas, who struck in quick succession with two wickets apiece.

Mendis got rid of Gambhir leg before wicket. The batsman opted for the referral but the decision was the same and that triggered off a sensational collapse as India lost four wickets for the addition of just 11 runs.

Mendis struck again in his next over when Malinda Warnapura took a good catch on the rebound to dismiss India’s number three Rahul Dravid, who has been picked up by the mystery spinner in all three innings in the series.

Then, Vaas, who had been taken to cleaners by Sehwag, struck two decisive blows accounting for star batsman Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the space of five deliveries.

While Tendulkar was out leg before wicket, Ganguly was caught spectacularly by Prasanna Jayawardene, diving in front of first slip, before he could open his account.

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