The Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis created a world record by becoming the first bowler to take 25 wickets in a debut series.
India put in a spin
COLOMBO // The Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis created a world record by becoming the first bowler to take 25 wickets in a debut series as India were left struggling at 161-5 in their second innings, a lead of just 14 runs on the third day of the final Test at the P Saravanamuttu stadium yesterday.
Mendis, 23, went past the Englishman Sir Alec Bedser's debut haul of 24 wickets taken in 1946, also against India, which until yesterday stood out as the record haul for a debut series. Mendis reached the feat when he trapped Sachin Tendulkar leg-before for 14. It was the first time the little master has fallen in the series to the Sri Lankan spinner. "This guy has changed the course of the series for Sri Lanka and he has been outstanding," said Harbhajan Singh. "I would like to steal some of his wicket-taking ability and his luck. He has made all the difference so far in the series.
"We have to play well tomorrow and get as many runs as possible. We are happy the way Rahul [Dravid] and [VVS] Laxman have batted to end the day. And we can still have hopes if we can build a substantial lead," added the Indian spinner. Prasad continued from where he left off on his debut match by claiming the wickets of the openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Ghambhir. Muttiah Muralitaharan sent back Saurav Ganguly and then Mendis gate-crashed the party when he removed Parthiv Patel and Tendulkar to leave the tourist in deep trouble.
Sehwag and Gambir gave the Indians a familiar flying start of the series. However, both fell in the space of three runs after Thilan Samaraweera took a sharp catch at gully to send Sehwag back and Gambhir dragged on to his stumps when trying to play a pull shot. The Indian middle-order, from whom much was expected, failed to fire again. It was left for Dravid and Laxman, who was batting with a runner after twisting his ankle on the previous day morning, to put up a fight.
Earlier, Sri Lanka extended their first innings lead to 147 with useful contributions from the bottom order - Prasanna Jayawardene, Dammika Prasad and Mendis - after Kumar Sangakkara had set the platform with a gritty 144. The Sri Lanka vice captain added 37 to his overnight score before edging Anil Kumble to a catch behind to Parthiv Patel. He batted for more than seven hours facing 288 deliveries, hitting 14 fours and sharing an 80-run stand with the wicket keeper Jayawardene.
Sangakkara said: "It was heartening to note the way our tailenders batted after I was out. They really pushed the advantage and take us to the position we are in at the moment. Hopefully we can push on from now." Jayawardene fell one run short of a half century when he picked up a full-length ball from Zaheer Khan straight down the throat of Harbhajan Singh at deep mid- wicket. But not before he had added another 43 with Prasad, who complemented his debut bowling figures with a useful 36.
India missed the services of Ishant Sharma, who limped off the field on the second day, and Sri Lanka capitalised. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org