Sri Lanka took on India at the Galle International Stadium, Galle, on
Tuesday in the first match of the three Test series. Sanath
Jayasuriya did not hesitate to elect to bat first after winning the
toss on a pitch full of grass. The Sri Lankan skipper had bolstered
his bowling attack by including four seamers.
India was a bit too cautious to start with as Shiv Sunder Das and
Sadagoppan Ramesh played sensibly to take the score 79 in the 42nd
over. They defied the pace of Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Suresh
Perera and Ruchira Perera, to accumulate the runs. Boundaries were a
rare commodity as the Sri Lankan bowlers denied free hits.
After having won the toss and failed to take a wicket in 42 overs is
something that worried the Sri Lankan skipper a lot. He brought about
the bowling changes but to no avail. The Indian openers stood strong.
Jayasuriya knew whom to call upon to deliver the goods in troubled
time, Muttiah Muralitharan.
Muralitharan struck the first big blow by removing Ramesh (42). A well
flighted delivery outside the off stump beat the intended drive by Ramesh
and Jayasuriya who had placed himself at short cover took an easy catch.
Muralitharan tied the batsmen down with some tight and attacking
bowling and the pressure told when Das (40) gave an easy catch to
Jayasuriya at first slip off the bowling of Chaminda Vaas.
Rahul Dravid looked to be in commanding touch and along with Kaif set
out on mastering the Lankan attack. Dravid is the key batsman in the
Indian line up, given the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
Muralitharan did the trick again. A well-flighted delivery lured
Dravid to charge down the track and play the ball across the line.
Dravid closed the face of the bat a bit too early, the inside edge to
the pads lobbed up to Russel Arnold at silly point and India had lost
one of their main batsmen.
They great wall of Indian defence was breached and allowed Fernando to
pick up the wickets of Mohd Kaif (37) and Badani (6) with the second
new ball. Muralitharan did upset the Indian skipper with a few balls
that jumped and turned away from him. At close of play India were
163/5, Sri Lanka clearly taking the advantage of the first day. One
need not look any further for the Top Performer of the day. Muttiah
Muralitharan made all the difference on a pitch that was meant to
support the faster bowlers.