Sri Lanka v India (Asia Test Championship)
S Jagadish and Rick Eyre - 24-28 February 1999

Day 1: Ramesh and Dravid master Sri Lankan bowlers

India were in a commanding position at the end of the first day of the second test of the Asian Test Championship at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground, Colombo. Sadagopan Ramesh and Rahul Dravid made 100s as India piled on 351/3 at stumps on day 1. Sachin Tendulkar on 53*(53) and Mohammad Azharuddin on 19*(42) were the not out batsmen.

Ranatunga won the toss and elected to field on a pitch which was expected to aid fast bowling. A better bowling side might have ended the day on a better note but Sri Lanka's meagre bowling resources were thoroughly exposed by the Indian batsmen. Amongst the Sri Lankan bowlers, only Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas had played more than 20 tests. Ruchira Perera and Eric Upashantha made their test debuts for Sri Lanka while Ashish Nehra made his debut for India. Laxmi Ratan Shukla was a surprise omission.

Sri Lanka fielded a bowling attack comprising of four medium pacers, including Hathurasingha chosen to fill the allrounder slot while India played a 2 medium pace, 2 spin attack. Considering the wide disparity in the composition of both teams, it certainly does look as though one team has got it all wrong. At close, Ranatunga would be regretting his decision to bowl first.

VVS Laxman and Ramesh started off condidently striking some good looking boundaries in the first few overs. Laxman looked determined to put behind him his performances in his last 3 tests, barring the last innings at Calcutta. Then he played a loose shot, well away from his body to be caught on the 2nd attempt at first slip. The ball flew to 3rd slip who didnt get hold of it, it popped up and went to the 2nd slip who somehow managed not to get a hand to it, fortunately for Sri Lanka, Aravinda reacted quickly and caught it.

Dravid joined Ramesh then to milk the bowling. The two picked runs at ease, both playing some very good looking drives on both sides of the wicket. The Sri Lankan fielding was shoddy, to put it mildly. They gave away overthrows and misfielded many times. Dravid took charge a little while before lunch and overtook Ramesh in the race for the fifty.

After lunch, Dravid dropped anchor and let Ramesh take charge. Ramesh got to his fifty, his fourth in tests, a short while after lunch. The two then continued to dominate the insipid Sri Lankan attack. Ramesh did have a few hiccups, especially when confronted with the short ball, the hook resulting in the ball ballooning to fineleg or square leg with the fielder nowhere in sight. Otherwise it was a very good display of batting. A short while before tea, Dravid and Ramesh were involved in a horrible mix up nearly resulting in Ramesh getting run out. Ramesh got to his maiden test ton shortly after tea with a square driven boundary. He didnt look like stopping there as he then launched into the Lankan bowling with some good lofted drives.

Ranatunga tried out all his bowling options, with the possible exception of Aravinda, who went off the field for a while to nurse a leg injury. Jayawardene it was, who got the breakthrough ultimately, as Ramesh mistimed a drive straight to Ranatunga at short cover. Ramesh made 143, the wicket falling at 252, a partnership of 232 runs in 64 overs. It was a tired looking shot. Tendulkar then came out, and looked like he wanted to dominate the bowling, striking three boundaries in his first 15 runs. Soon thereafter, Dravid then went on to his fifth test hundred, all of them coming outside India.

Dravid got out soon thereafter, for a well made 107, with the score at 288, slashing outside off, Ranatunga at short gully juggled with the ball before controlling it finally. Azhar then came out with 10 overs to go before close. Tendulkar played a few powerful strokes but was nearly involved in his second consecutive run out in tests.

Tendulkar drove past extra cover, sweeper cover ran a long way and prevented the boundary, the batsmen had already crossed for two runs. The throw came to the bowler's end, Tendulkar was halfway down the track for the third, Azhar wasnt even remotely interested. The bowler collected the throw and hurled it to the keeper, but Tendulkar was home by then. He then got to his fifty with a risky hook.

Day 2: Sri Lanka chasing big Indian total

On the 2nd day of the second test of the Asian Test Championship, Sri Lanka put up a far better performance than Wednesday. They ended the day at 121/2, 397 runs behind India's mammoth first innings score of 518/7 declared. Mahela Jayawardene was not out on 59(93) and Chandika Hathurasingha not out on 11(24).

Amidst great expectations for a blistering century, and possibly his first test double century, Tendulkar took strike to Vaas. He edged the first ball of the second day to Kaluwitharana, a peach of an outswinger from Vaas, not exactly the best of shots from Tendulkar either. Saurav Ganguly joined Azharuddin at the crease. Runs were hard to get thanks to much improved fielding and bowling. So India crawled along in the first session, getting 73 runs in 25 overs. There didnt seem to be any intention of quickening the run scoring. On the resumption, Azhar and Ganguly continued to get runs with ease. Azhar however had a lot luck as at least on three occasions, he edged to slip with the ball landing just before the fielder. Perera, in particular bowled a hostile spell to Azhar, nicely mixing his short deliveries with yorker length ones.

Azharuddin perished in trying to up the tempo. He had managed to loft the ball over mid on and over the bowler's head on a couple of occasions, the bowler being offspinner Russel Arnold. Once again he came down the track to clear long on but didnt quite hit it cleanly and Chandika Hathurasingha ran a good distance to bring off an excellent diving catch. Azhar thus got out making 87, the Australian bad luck score. In the company of Ganguly, the partnership was worth 112 runs in 35 overs.

Mongia was the next man in. Ganguly then decided to take charge but barring a few nice drives on the offside, he didnt look very comfortable. The Lankan bowlers, especially the medium pacers, bowled a line which was quite wide outside offstump thereby giving the batsmen no chance of even attempting a shot, in fear of getting an edge and being caught. Ganguly got to his fifty with the help of consecutive boundaries off Arnold. He didnt last much longer as, like his captain, in trying to step up the runrate, he drove Arnold airily to cover where substitute fielder Kalpage brought off a wonderful flying catch.

Nayan Mongia and Anil Kumble helped India past the 500 mark and Mongia fell a few minutes before tea, driving straight to DeSilva at mid off. Azharuddin declared soon thereafter. The Sri Lankans started their first innings in a multi-nation test championship after tea. Venkatesh Prasad and newcomer Ashish Nehra operated the new ball for India with Marvan Atapattu and Russel Arnold opening for Sri Lanka. Nehra got his first test wicket in only his third over, the sixth of the Sri Lankan innings, trapping Atapattu in front with an inswinger. After that it was tough going for India as Jayawardene played some very good drives on both sides of the wicket to outscore Arnold before he had faced even 20 deliveries. Spin was introduced soon, with Anil Kumble bowling around the wicket to Arnold and on quite a few occasions to Jayawardene too, to possibly exploit the rough. Mahela was lucky to survive on a couple of occasions, when VVS Laxman put down a sharp chance at short leg and when the umpire didnt uphold a batpad catch appeal, TV replays showing that there had indeed been an inside edge. Arnold too survived when his batpad shot landed just short of Dravid.

The 75 run partnership, in 24 overs, was broken due to a brilliant bit of fielding from shortleg fielder Dravid. Arnold pushed on the offside and took off, Dravid stuck his left hand out, collected the ball, transferred it to his right and threw it back to Mongia who broke the stumps.

It was reminiscient of Adam Parore's run out in the 2nd test between India and New Zealand at Wellington, the same combination of Dravid and Mongia featuring there. Chandika Hathurasingha, with a test batting average of 30, came out as nightwatchman. His ability to bat was immediately apparent as he drove a couple of boundaries through the offside. The pitch doesnt seem to have changed considerably, so the bowlers could be in for a long day, yet again.

Day 3: Mahela shines as Test heads for draw

A big century by Mahela Jayawardene was the highlight of the third day's play in the Second Asian Championship Test between Sri Lanka and India at the SSC Ground, Colombo, yesterday. When bad light halted play early, Sri Lanka were 293 for 4 after 95.2 overs in reply to India's 518 for 7 declared, a result seeming unlikely and the interest in bonus points about to die in another 4.4 overs.

Kumble started off Friday's proceedings along with Prasad. Both bowled quite well, Kumble in particular causing a few problems for Mahela with some well flighted legbreaks. Prasad also bowled a good line and length causing frustration for the Sri Lankan batsmen. Hathurasingha was the first to go when he shuffled across to flick Prasad's delivery to square leg, and was struck in front of middle and the umpire had no hesitation in declaring him lbw for 14.

Aravinda DeSilva joined Mahela, who was looking quite confident, barring a couple of overs wherehe struggled against Kumble. Nehra replaced Prasad and bowled a few good deliveries to both Aravinda and Mahela. However the moment he pitched short, DeSilva was onto it in a flash and pulled and cut him for boundaries in quick succession. Mahela then cut loose against Kumble pulling and cutting him for three boundaries in one over to quickly move to his 80s.

Harbhajan then was brought on and had immediate success. DeSilva swept him for four and the next ball he tried to repeat the same shot, however the extra turn resulted in him missing it altogether and was bowled for 23. That was the last wicket to fall for the day, as Sri Lanka went to lunch at 184 for 4, with Jayawardene on 89. Captain Arjuna Ranatunga joined Jayawardene to bat out the remainder of the day.

Twenty-one year old Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene scored his second Test century in seven appearances after being dropped on 63, 92 and 97. Laxman was the fieldsman responsible for both of the first two misses, Ganguly the third.

Shortly after tea, Ranatunga appeared to pull a muscle while going for a single. Russel Arnold came out to act as a runner for him. After two successive bouncers from left-armer Ashish Nehra to the Sri Lankan captain, the umpires offered the light to the batsmen, who accepted. Rain ended any chance of a resumption shortly afterwards, only 58.2 overs being possible for the day.

Ranatunga retired hurt overnight before the fourth day began on Saturday, remaining on 66. Tillakaratne came to the crease with Jayawardene (128 overnight) this morning. Sri Lanka brought up their third batting point when they reached 300 in the 100th over.

After a slow start, Tillaratne scored 14 before being given out to a sharp stumping by Mongia off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. As Jayawardene passed his previous best Test score (167 against New Zealand last year), Sri Lanka passed the follow-on threshold and any chance of an outright result appeared dead and buried. India have claimed 5 points from this match, giving them 10 for the series so far. Sri Lanka have 4. Pakistan claimed 17 from their outright win against India last week.

Day 4: Jayawardene 242 as draw beckons

After a feast of exciting Test matches finishing in outright results over recent months, this weekend sees two Test matches were the draw is the most likely option. While there is still hope for one side (namely South Africa) at Auckland, the Second Asian Championship Test at Colombo sees little chance of the twelve points for a win being claimed.

With wickets a scarcity at both grounds, two performances have been memorable. In New Zealand Daryll Cullinan finished Sunday's play unbeaten on 246 with the prospect of more to come. In Colombo, Mahela Jayawardene showed that he is another bright prospect for Sri Lanka's batting future, scoring 242 against India - for whom 236 is still the all-time record by any Test batsman.

Jayawardene brought up the third highest score by any Sri Lankan in Test cricket (after 340 by Sanath Jayasuriya and 267 by Aravinda de Silva), facing 466 balls and hitting 30 fours and 2 sixes for his 242. Beginning his innings at the fall of the first Sri Lankan wicket on Friday, Jayawardene was the last batsman to go, his side all out for 485, a first innings deficit of 33.

The last four Sri Lankan wickets fell for 19 runs. Following the dismissal of Chaminda Vaas (23) by Kumble, Arjuna Ranatunga returned to the crease, having retired hurt on his overnight score of 66. He pushed his first ball faced to twelfth man HH Kanitkar at short leg. With his presence in Sri Lanka's team to play Pakistan in doubt because of the injury, it is not entirely out of the question that this was his final Test innings - a bizarre way to go if it was.

In the morning session Rahul Dravid was injured when fielding at short leg, his in the face through the grill of his helmet by a pull shot from Jayawardene.

Kumble (4/134) and Harbhajan Singh (3/126) toiled long and hard for their wickets.

Ramesh was dismissed for 30 shortly before bad light and rain ended Sunday's play with India on 59 for 1, an outright result looking almost impossible.

Day 5: Going through the motions - Sri Lanka and India draw

There were no surprises at Colombo. Predictably, the 2nd test of the Asian Test Championship finished as a draw. India, resuming from 59/1 finished at 306/5. Tendulkar made his 19th test century, most certainly one he wont' put down amongst his all-time favourites.

Both teams merely went through the motions the whole day. Arjuna Ranatunga was off the whole day, Aravinda DeSilva continued to be in charge. He set some aggressive fields for Ganguly and Laxman.

Laxman squandered an opportunity to play a long innings as he got out lbw to Upashantha who bowled a tight long spell this morning. The very next over, Perera dropped a difficult return catch off Ganguly. Tendulkar joined Ganguly at the crease and the two set about milking the Sri Lankan bowling, which while being restrictive, was hardly penetrative.

The two had a long partnership, scoring 140 runs in 40 odd overs. Ganguly stepped out to loft Aravinda DeSilva and was stumped. Due to Dravid's injury, he didnt come out to bat in the second innings. Azharuddin joined Tendulkar but never really was able to dominate the bowling. He got out edging DeSilva to the lone slip. Nayan Mongia added to India's injury woes as he sat out with a sprained neck. Anil Kumble came in at #5 and hung around for a while. Meanwhile Tendulkar played an uncharacteristically patient innings, rarely scoring boundaries. His lone six came quite late in the innings.

Soon after Tendulkar got to his 19th test century, Kumble picked out long on, trying to hit a six off Arnold. Aravinda DeSilva aggravated his injury while bowling and Hashan Tillakaratne took over captaincy duties. Venkatesh Prasad, with a test batting average of 6, came out at #7 and hung around till the end. Tendulkar was not out 124 and Prasad not out 9 when both captains decided to call off the match. Mahela Jayawardena was named Man of the Match for his brilliant, but chancy 242.

India have 10 points from their two matches, Sri Lanka have 4. Pakistan lead the table with a win as well as 17 points. Due to injuries to Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda DeSilva as well the need to make sure Chaminda Vaas is at his fittest for the World Cup, Sri Lanka named a revised squad for their test against Pakistan at Lahore starting March 4th. Mahela Jayawardena, the star of this test, was named vice captain, perhaps an indication that he is destined to captain Sri Lanka once the new guard takes over.