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Sri Lanka v India (Asia Test Championship)
Sa'adi Thawfeeq - 24-28 February 1999

Day 1: Ramesh maiden Test 'ton', India formidable 351/3

Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga who knows the history of the SSC pitch like the back of his hand, was left to rue his decision to send India to bat first when they ran up a formidable first day total of 351 for three wickets in the second match of the Asian Test championships yesterday.

Left-handed opener Sadagopan Ramesh made 143, his maiden Test century and Rahul Dravid, 107, his fifth in a 29-Test career as they shared a record-breaking second wicket stand of 232 runs. Ranatunga's decision to go into the Test without a single front-line spinner and play four seamers was apparently based on the appearance of the pitch which had a fair amount of grass on it. But try as they might, none of the Sri Lankan seamers could make any impression on the pitch which turned out to be as docile as ever. Sri Lanka's new-look bowling attack with debutants Ruchira Perera and Erik Upashantha were clobbered all over the SSC ground which produced a total of 44 boundaries.

The bowlers laboured all day and were rewarded scantily for their efforts with the wickets of Vengipurappu Laxman which they captured within the first 37 minutes of play for 11 and Ramesh and Dravid, in the final session. Ramesh and Dravid collared the bowling to all parts making a mockery of the bowling attack which was minus the experienced Pramodaya Wickremasinghe and the injured Muthiah Muralitharan. The fielding too slacked under the calculated assault.

After the departure of the two centurions, there was no respite for the Sri Lankans as Sachin Tendulkar took apart a tired bowling attack to slam a run-a-ball fifty inclusive of ten fours.

Skipper Mohammad Azharuddin played a passive role scoring 19 off 42 balls and with more batting to come in the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Nayan Mongia, India looked good enough to set Sri Lanka a massive total to chase, despite having obtained the maximum batting bonus points - four.

The 23-year-old left-hander Ramesh from Tamil Nadu playing in only his fourth Test excelled in the drives to reach the boundary on 18 occasions before falling to part timer Mahela Jayawardene, giving the bowler his first Test wicket.

Ramesh has been a consistent run-getter in domestic cricket and having made his Test debut against Pakistan in the recent series had three scores of over fifty (highest 96 at Delhi) in his previous six Test innings before yesterday.

He had a close call at 96 shortly before the tea break, when he was nearly run out. Wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana failed to run up to the stumps to collect the throw from mid-on after Ramesh was sent back by non-striker Dravid. With the exception of this incident, Ramesh batted with great ease to chalk up his maiden century. He was eventually out caught by Ranatunga at shot extra-cover when he drove uppishly having batted 317 minutes and faced 214 balls.

Both Ramesh and Dravid batted nonchalantly to score centuries and share in a double century partnership which was a record for India in Tests against Sri Lanka. Ramesh and Dravid's stand of 232 off 64.2 overs erased the previous highest for the wicket of 173 between Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengasarkar at Madras in 1982-83.

Dravid playing fluently, was eventually out cutting medium-pacer Hathurusingha to gully where Ranatunga held the catch on the third attempt. Dravid hit 12 fours in his knock of 107 and batted for 314 minutes facing 218 balls.

Sri Lanka's solitary success in the first session was the wicket of Laxman who edged a rising delivery from debutant Perera to the slips cordon where it was held by Aravinda de Silva after it had rebounded off the hands of two others.

Both teams blooded new Test players. For Sri Lanka Ruchira Perera and Erik Upashantha became the 74th and 75th players to appear for the country. India gave a Test cap to left-arm fast bowler Ashish Nehre.

Day 2: India 518/7, Lanka 121 for 2

Sri Lanka lost the wickets of openers Marvan Atapattu and Russel Arnold as they began the daunting task of matching India's imposing first innings total of 518 for seven declared on the second day of the second Asian Test championship match played at the SSC grounds yesterday.

By the close, Sri Lanka were 121 for two with Mahela Jayewardene unbeaten on 59 and Chandika Hathurusingha, promoted ahead of Aravinda de Silva in the batting undefeated on 11.

Sri Lanka's first task on the third day today, will be to reach the total of 319 which would save them from being asked to follow-on, before they start thinking of obtaining the maximum four batting bonus points. to get that they need to score in excess of 350 within the first 100 overs of their innings. Sri Lanka have so far used up 37 of those overs in scoring 121 runs.

At the end of the second day, India have four points for batting and Sri Lanka three for bowling. Jayewardene, the young batting star playing on his home ground where he compiled a career best 217 not out in the domestic tournament match a fortnight back, showed the form and class that brought him a maiden one-day century against England in the recently concluded Carlton and United world series match at Adelaide.

Jayewardene hit 10 fours and an on driven six off spinner Harbajan Singh, making full use of a dropped chance at 25 by Vangipurappu Laxman at short leg off Anil Kumble. With Russel Arnold who made a solid 34 in two hours, Jayewardene added 75 for the second wicket after Marvan Atapattu had been dismissed cheaply for six in the sixth over.

Atapattu, beaten by the pace of left-arm Test debutante Ashish Nehra was ruled out lbw with the score at 18, Arnold, back in the side in the place of the injured Sanath Jayssuriya and Jayewardene batted confidently to take the score to 93 before the former was run out by a smart bit of fielding by Rahul Dravid at short-leg.

The Indian fielder fired back the ball to wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia catching Arnold well short of his crease as he stretched out to pay the spin of Harbajan Singh.

Sri Lanka began the second morning on a high note when they had the prize wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the first ball of the day. The Indian batting maestro who had slammed ten fours in his run-a-ball half century played a delivery from Chaminda Vaas away from his body and edged a relatively easy catch to wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana.

The success was however short-lived for Sri Lanka, as skipper Mohammad Azharuddin joined by left-hander Sourav Ganguly set about the bowling adding 112 for the fifth wicket.

Azharuddin and Ganguly both made fifties as India went for quick runs with the hope of an early declaration at tea. In the second session, India added 94 runs off 28 overs losing three wickets in the process, which was the highest lost in one session of this Test.

Azharuddin fell to a brilliant diving catch by Chandika Hathurusinghe at long on for 87, giving part-time spinner Arnold his first Test wicket. He batted 218 minutes and hit 12 fours.

Ganguly also fell to another brilliant effort on the field when he was caught at extra cover by substitute fielder Ruwan Kalpage diving to his left to give Test debutant Erik Upashantha his first wicket. Ganguly batted sedately for 56 in 209 minutes with six fours.

Sri Lanka also captured the wicket of Nayan Mongia for 25 in the final over before tea, caught by De Silva at mid-off off Arnold, leaving Anil Kumble unbeaten on ten at the declaration. Sri Lanka's bowling and fielding during the Indian innings left much to be desired.

Day 3: Mahela, Arjuna take Lanka to safety

Sri Lanka rode on Mahela Jayawardene's luck to score 293 for 4 wickets when rain brought an early end to the third day, 40 minutes after tea in the second match of the Asian Test championships played at the SSC grounds yesterday.

Sri Lanka were replying to India's first innings of 518 for seven declared. Jayewardene was dropped on three occasions before reaching his century by butter-fingered Indian fieldsmen and he made them pay dearly by scoring an undefeated 128 out of an unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 115 with skipper Arjuna Ranatunga (66).

Jayewardene who began the day at 59, went to his second Test century in style by on-driving off-spinner Harbajan Singh for his second six to long-on. It took him 297 minutes, and 209 balls and comprised one six and 17 fours.

He was missed at 25 on the second day and yesterday, India fielders allowed him the luxury of two further dropped catches at 63 and 97 and, Laxman at second slip put down a half chance when he was on 93. Otherwise, he batted superbly using his feet to the spinners and dealing equalling well with the fast-medium bowlers.

Ranatunga who went for a sharp single suffered a cramp on his leg and had called for a runner , when the rains came down to put a stop to the day's proceedings 40 minutes into the final session. Ranatunga had hit eight fours in a stay of 175 minutes.

India bowled only four overs in the restricted final session where 20 minutes was lost while Ranatunga was treated for cramps on the field.

India's success for the day were restricted to the first session when they grabbed the wickets of Chandika Hathurusingha for 14 and Aravinda de Silva for 23. Hathurusingha sent as nightwatchman was unfortunate to be ruled out lbw to Venkatesh Prasad. TV replays showed the ball hitting him high on the pad flap above the height of the stumps. Sri Lanka lost the wicket at 129, having resumed at 121 for 2.

De Silva made a sedate 23 with four fours, before he was bowled round his legs by Singh attempting a second successive sweep for four. It was a poor shot by de Silva that led to his downfall. He had in the previous ball pitched outside leg stump, swept and got a boundary. But attempting to repeat the shot with the ball pitching on leg stump he paid the penalty.

India were denied further success by Jayewardene and Ranatunga who batted with ease on the placid surface which was taking slow spin but not enough to trouble the batsmen.

Day 4: Mahela rides his luck to make double 'ton'

Ranjan Anandappa

Mahela Jayawardene led a Sri Lankan run spree with a career best double century (242) only in his sixth Test match in a batsmen oriented second match in the Asian Test Championship at the SSC grounds yesterday.

In an innings interspersed with mixed fortunes, Jayawardene rode his luck in no uncertain manner being dropped on numerous occasions to get the maximum of an atrocious catching display by the Indians who had to pay dearly. Jayawardena frustrated the Indians for 677 minutes facing 465 deliveries hitting 30 sizzling boundaries and two sixes off spinner Harbhajan Singh in his lengthy innings which gave him almost half of the Sri Lankan total.

Mahela Jayawardene strode into the crease when Sri Lanka lost Marvan Atapattu two days ago and Mahela was the last man out playing back to a Anil Kumble delivery back to the bowler lackadaisically.

Jayawardene's innings was an eventual one with dropped catches, superb drives on both flanks of the wickets and a couple of survival shots no doubt gave the Indians enough headaches.

Sri Lanka ended the third day's play at 293 for 4 with Jayawardene unbeaten on 128 and skipper Ranatunga 66 n.o. Ranatunga who pulled a muscle on the previous day, did not bat yesterday and Jayawardene along with Tillekeratne continued the innings. Ranatunga and Jayawardene had added 115 runs for the fifth wicket, Tillekeratne batting with Jayawardene added a further 61 runs to complete a 176-run stand. Tillekeratne batted sedately for his 14 and took 47 minutes to open his account rendering fine support to Jayawardene who had batted enough to play the dominant role.

Sri Lanka also had two important junctures in the new format of the Asian Test Championship. They had to reach the 300-run mark in 100 overs to obtain three bonus points and the formality of scoring 319 runs to make India bat again. They achieved both these objectives with plenty of wickets in hand.

At lunch interval, Sri Lanka were 358 for 5 with Jayawardene unbeaten on 168 and Kaluvitharana 5 n.o.

Jayawardene was approaching his double hundred and virtually taking his side to the threshold of the 400-run mark. Jayawardene wavered a bit in the 190's and at 198 swung Harbhajan Singh towards mid-wicket in quest of scoring his double hundred but Venkatesh Prasad running in from square leg had to cover some ground got both hands and dropped the catch to give three runs and the double 'ton' for Jayawardene. He completed his 150 off 294 deliveries with two sixes and 21 fours.

The Lankans who were 390 for 5 at one stage, lost wickets of Chaminda Vaas and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga who resumed his innings with a runner in successive deliveries.

Anil Kumble carved in late into the Sri Lankan batting to take 4 for 134 in 24.4 overs while off spinner Harbhajan Singh bowled without much luck to finish with 3 for 127 off 40 overs.

India batting with a lead of 33 runs, were 59 for 1 in their second innings when play ended prematurely with 13 overs still to be bowled.

Sandagopan Ramesh 30 off 38 balls with 5 fours and Vangirappu Laxman put on 50 runs for the first wicket before medium pacer Eric Upashantha got Ramesh to drive one uppishly for Tillekeratne to snap up the catch.

Saurauv Ganguly coming in at number three in place of the injured Rahul Dravid who was hit through the visor of the helmet below his left eye, kept the company of Laxman when play ended due to bad light.

Day 5: Match fizzles out into a tame draw

Captains Arjuna Ranatunga and Mohammad Azharuddin were left to reflect on what went wrong in the second Asian Test championship match between Sri Lanka and India after it ended in a tame draw at the SSC grounds yesterday. P>The game was destined to end that way after India decided to bat out the whole of the fifth and final day on a pitch which the two teams failed to make full use. India finished the second innings at 306 for 5 wickets with Sachin Tendulkar completing his 19th Test century - an unbeaten 124.

Sri Lanka captain Ranatunga who gave India first choice of the pitch after winning the toss and saw them hit up an imposing 518 for 7 declared said: ``Normally the SSC pitch does a lot in the morning. But on this occasion it didn't do anything at all. It became a really good batting pitch''.

His vis-a-vis Azharuddin said: ``The pitch was a good one to force a result, but we missed our chances by dropping quite a few catches. If we had got a big lead it would have been a very difficult wicket to bat on, especially when Anil Kumble and Harbajan Singh bowled. It started from the fourth day and the bounce was getting very uneven: Azharuddin said he was very hopeful his team would make it to the final in Dhaka against Pakistan on March 12.

India took five points from this game and Sri Lanka four. Overall, India have completed all their matches and have ten points. They will have to await the Sri Lanka-Pakistan match beginning at Lahore on March 4 to know whether they have qualified to play in the final.

Tendulkar's century was the only noteworthy performance yesterday. His unconquered knock of 124 lasted 308 minutes and comprised 10 fours and a six. India who had a first innings lead of 33 in the first innings led overall by 339 runs when the match ended at the completion of eight mandatory overs.

The manner in which India went about their task of scoring runs gave the impression that they were not interested in setting Sri Lanka a target to chase on the benign wicket.

The final day's play was dominated by the third wicket stand of 139 between Sourav Ganguly and Tendulkar.

Left-hander Ganguly scored a sedate 78 in 244 minutes with eight fours before losing his patience. He advanced down the wicket to offer wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana an easy stumping off acting captain Aravinda de Silva. It was his second fifty of the match having made 56 in the first.

Ganguly's wicket fell shortly before tea at 213, ending a century stand with Tendulkar.

Tendulkar who was 67 at the time, went on to complete his century after tea by ondriving Aravinda de Silva for a couple to leg and celebrated his hundred with a cover drive for four.

On his way to three-figures he lost captain Mohammad Azharuddin for 15 when he attempted to cut a wide ball and was caught by Russel Arnold at slip off de Silva.

Arnold was also involved in the dismissal of Anil Kumble for 10 when he lofted him to Chaminda Vaas at deep mid wicket. Sri Lanka had one solitary success in the morning when they captured the wicket of Vangipurappu Laxman for 25 when Erik Upashantha had him lbw.

Sri Lanka were without their captain Arjuna Ranatunga for the final day. Ranatunga has ruled himself out of the match against Pakistan at Lahore because of a hamstring injury suffered while batting on the third day.

Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene who scored a career best 242 was named the Man of the Match by adjudicator Somachandra de Silva. He received a trophy and US$ 5000.

Source: The Daily News