Sehwag and Harbhajan give India the edge

August 1st, 2008 - 9:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
By Rex Clementine
Galle, Aug 1 (IANS) Harbhajan Singh rested the initiative for India taking four wickets to leave Sri Lanka at 215 for five after Virender Sehwag’s unbeaten double century the visitors to a first-innings score of 329 on the second day of the second cricket Test at the Galle International Cricket Stadium Friday. The Test looked more a battle between the hosts and Sehwag (201 not out) instead of Sri Lanka and India as the opener single-handedly gave the tourists a respectable score in their first innings before Harbhajan joined the party to rock the Sri Lankan innings.

Sri Lanka were threatening to take a big lead riding on half-centuries by Malinda Warnapura (66) and Kumar Sangakkara (68) when Harbhajan (four for 71) made the ball talk on the dusty pitch.

After losing Michael Van Dort for four off the third ball of their innings, Sri Lanka progressed to 126 for one by tea, but lost wickets in a rush due to some poor shot selection.

Both Sangakkara and Warnapura looked set for big scores before Harbhajan removed the duo in the space of 13 deliveries.

Warnapura batted with confidence up until his dismissal, hitting ten fours and a six before he sliced one straight to Gautam Gambhir who had been positioned at short square point.

Sangakkara trying to whip the off-break on the on-side got a leading edge and was picked up by the bowler.

Thilan Samaraweera then added 48 runs for the fourth wicket with Mahela Jayawardene (46 batting) before being ruled leg before wicket and three balls later Tillekaratne Dilshan too departed without scoring to give Harbhajan his fourth wicket.

Earlier, the Indian batsmen’s nightmares against the Sri Lankan bowlers continued, but Sehwag took the attack to the hosts to give India a good platform.

Freak spinner Ajantha Mendis once again proved to be their nemisis as he took his career’s maiden five-wicket haul with figures of 6-117.

It was Sehwag’s show in the morning as he extended the fifth wicket partnership with V.V.S. Laxman for 100 runs. Laxman, who had joined Sehwag at a precarious 178 for four, added 39 before falling prey to Mendis for the third time in the series.

India’s lower order collapsed like a pack of cards losing their last six wickets for just 51 runs.

Sehwag became the first Indian to score a double hundred against the Sri Lankans and the first overseas player to score a double hundred at the Galle International Cricket Stadium.

Mohammad Azharrudin had made 199 against the Sri Lankans in 1986 while the highest individual score by an overseas batsman here was 178 by Brian Lara in 2001.

He also became the second Indian after Sunil Gavaskar to carry his bat through and the 42nd player overall in Tests to do so. Gavaskar had achieved his feat in 1983 against Pakistan in Faisalabad.

Sehwag also passed 5000 Test runs and is the tenth Indian batsman to do so after Sachin Tendulkar (11.826), Sunil Gavaskar (10,122), Rahul Dravid (10,101), Dilip Vengsarkar (6868), Sourav Ganguly (6819), Mohammad Azharuddin (6215), Gundappa Vishvanath (6080), V.V.S. Laxman (5892) and Kapil Dev (5248).

Sehwag has had a penchant for big scores in Tests and this was the 11th consecutive time he had converted a hundred into a score over 150.

Sehwag had a few anxious moment during his knock and had a tough chance off Mendis put down by Chamara Silva at long leg when the fielder tripped over the rope with the batsman on 156.

Then he nicked Mendis to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene when on 188, but umpire Billy Doctrove turned down the appeal and the Sri Lankans couldn’t ask for a referral as their three referrals had exhausted by then.

Umpire Gamini Silva, the third umpire, was asked to function in the role of Television Referral Umpire after colleague Mark Benson had to move on filed with Rudi Keortzen indisposed and he had a busy day as six referrals were made during the day.

Sehwag was on 195 when last man Ishant Sharma came to the crease, but he managed to get to the milestone before Sharma was ruled leg before wicket to Mendis.

Muralitharan bowled 24 overs before claiming his first wicket in the innings. He finished with two for 93.

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