x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sehwag carves Sri Lanka apart

Murali Vijay also impresses with a half-century as Muralitharan concedes 100 runs again and India put themselves in the driver's seat.

Vijay provided able support to Sehwag to give India a nice start.
Vijay provided able support to Sehwag to give India a nice start.

Virender Sehwag became the third fastest Indian to reach 6,000 Test runs yesterday, as the right-hand opener smashed a scintillating 284 not out on the second day of the third Test against Sri Lanka. Having bowled out the visitors, who won the toss and elected to bat, for 393, India quickly put the tourists' pedestrian attack to the sword at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, the venue's first Test in 36 years.

Sri Lanka must win the final Test to draw the series. But after labouring to near the 400-mark safety mark, Kumar Sangakkara's side saw their decent total reeled in for a single wicket as India turned the screw and finished the day's play on 443 for one. Murali Vijay, playing only his second Test in the absence of regular opener Gautam Gambhir, was Sri Lanka's only scalp. The 24-year-old right hander, who made 87, was bowled lbw by Rangana Herath after lunch. The visitors' frail bowling attack was ripped apart by the ruthless Sehwag, who hammered an unbeaten 284 - Test cricket's third-highest individual score in one day's play - as India put themselves in a perfect position to seal the best-of-three 2-0.

"I thought I would bide my time, see off the new ball and then take my chances," said Sehwag. "I missed out on a double century in the last Test in Kanpur and I wanted to make amends. I wanted to make sure I didn't miss out and I batted the best way I thought was possible. "I was cautious at the start because I did not want to give the opposition any chances as I had done in the two previous matches."

Sehwag's swashbuckling double century, which leaves him just 16 runs away from being the first player to hit three triple centuries in Test cricket, has left Sri Lanka with a mountain to climb. The visitors had got off to the worst possible start, losing batsman Angelo Mathews for 99, and were bowled out completely within 27 minutes of play resuming in the morning. Mathews had required only 14 runs for a maiden Test century. He started well, edging Shanthakumaran Sreesanth for a boundary early on, the ball falling just short of VVS Laxman at second slip.

Minutes later, he was run out in his eargerness to reach a century. He cut a short ball to deep square-leg and, trying for a second, failed to beat Sachin Tendulkar's accurate throw to wicketkeeper MS Dhoni. Replays showed that while the toe end of Mathews' bat was just over the line, it was in the air when the bails were removed. Mathews's overnight partner, veteran spin specialist Muttiah Muralitharan, who later endured a nightmare with the ball as Sehwag mercilessly smashed him around the stadium, was undefeated on four at the end of Sri Lanka's innings.

Chanaka Welegedara was the last man dismissed, falling lbw to Pragyan Ojha, who finished with three for 101, from 23.4 overs. Then the day belonged to Sehwag and Vijay. The opening duo quickly put on 221 for the first wicket before the latter fell to Herath, who trapped Viraj in front as he attempted a sweep. "It was an amazing innings [by Sehwag] and it was great watching from the other end," said Vijay. "With him around, you really don't have to bother about the scoring rate."

Rahul Dravid, who replaced Vijay at the crease, certainly did. The veteran batsman smacked Muralitharan for consecutive boundaries on either side of the wicket early in his innings, and provided admirable support for Sehwag as the hosts zoned in on the Sri Lankans target. Sehwag's unbelievable flurry of fours and sixes, achieved in spite of a back injury suffered just before the tea break, brought it ever closer and, once passed, neither Indian batsman relented.

It took India less than three sessions to overhaul Sri Lanka's total, scoring more than 400 runs in a day for the second time in as many Tests. @Email:emegson@thenational.ae