x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sri Lanka given a mountain to climb

Herath takes a five wicket haul but not before Rahul Dravid adds another century to go fourth in the list of all-time top-scorers in Test history.

Sri Lanka face a massive task to ensure this three-match series goes to the wire in Mumbai next week after they finished day two more than 450 runs short of avoiding the follow on. The only crumb of comfort for the visitors is that it could have been worse, much worse. India were on course to break the 700-run mark and smash their previous highest score of 676 when they reached 613 for four midway through the second session. But Regana Herath, who had bowled over after over of innocuous left-arm spin, triggered an unlikely collapse that saw India lose their last six wickets for a meagre 29 runs. Replying to a mammoth total of 642 and knowing a draw was the extent of their ambitions, Sri Lanka made the worst possible start when they lost Tillakaratne Dilshan to the very first ball of their innings.

Kumar Sangakkara and Tharanga Paranavitana began the huge rebuilding task by reaching 66 for one at the close but they know the pressure will be cranked up today on a pitch that is demonstrating signs of variable bounce. In fact, Sangakkara was fortunate to survive a strong lbw shout off of Harbhajan Singh. Although India's four-man attack, which includes Pragyan Ojha, who is making his debut, appears to lack the variety and potency to dismiss Sri Lanka twice, Gautham Gambhir still believes India are in the driving seat and cannily attempted to sow seeds of doubt about the pitch. "If you get 650 on the board, it's always difficult for the team batting second," said Gambhir. "The way the wicket is behaving now, it's only going to get more difficult. Stroke-making isn't easy because the bounce is not that great.

"There's only one team that can lose from this situation and that's Sri Lanka. If we bowl well, we're favourites in this game. They need 450 to avoid the follow-on. As long as they're short of that, they'll be in danger. And on this pitch, 450 is a lot of runs." The sheer weight of runs has been the theme of this uninspiring series so far and the grateful batsman have gleefully accepted the chance to swell their averages. Not least Rahul Dravid. The elegant right-hander passed Steve Waugh in the list of leading all-time run getters with a faultless century in the last match and yesterday he leapfrogged another great Australian, Allan Border, with his 28th Test hundred. Dravid passed Border's haul of 11,1174 runs in 20 less matches than the nuggety left-hander and now only another Australian, Ricky Ponting; Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar sit above him in the pecking order. Dravid was eventually out for 144 in the cruelest of fashions. Backing up at the non-strikers end, he was run out after a fierce lofted drive from VVS Laxman was spilled onto the stumps by Herath and caught him short of his ground. Given the authority and skill that Dravid played with, it was always going to take a somewhat curious dismissal to remove him.

But the departure of Dravid merely brought Yuvraj Singh, the free-scoring left-hander, to the crease and he and Laxman added an effortless 102 for the fifth wicket. At that stage it was a question of how many India would get. But Herath turned things round either side of tea. He removed Laxman for 63 and then beautifully deceived MS Dhoni, Harbhajan and Sreesanth with the delivery that went straight on and snared Zaheer Khan with an orthodox off-break. In between, the disappointing Ajantha Mendis picked up the scalp of Yuvraj for 67. Nine of the 10 wickets - the other was a run out - had fallen to spin and it spoke volumes for India's tactics that Muttiah Muralitharan bowled 38 overs without a maiden. kaffleck@thenational.ae

India (overnight 417-2): Gautam Gambhir c & b Muralitharan 167 Virender Sehwag c Dilshan b Muralitharan 131 Rahul Dravid run out 144 Sachin Tendulkar c Samaraweera b Mendis 40 V.V.S. Laxman c Dilshan b Herath 63 Yuvraj Singh c Sangakkara b Mendis 67 Mahendra Singh Dhoni b Herath 4 Harbhajan Singh b Herath 5 Zaheer Khan c Mahela Jayawardene b Herath 1 Shanthakumaran Sreesanth lbw b Herath 0 Pragyan Ojha not out 1 Extras: (4lb, 11lb, 4nb) 19 TOTAL: (all out, 154 overs) 642 Fall of wickets: 1-233 (Sehwag), 2-370 (Gambhir), 3-464 (Tendulkar), 4-511 (Dravid), 5-613 (Laxman), 6-619 (Dhoni), 7-639 (Harbhajan), 8-641 (Yuvraj), 9-641 (Zaheer), 10-642 (Sreesanth). Bowling: Chanaka Welegedara 26-4-103-0 (4nb), Angelo Mathews 17-2-49-0, Rangana Herath 33-2-121-5, Ajantha Mendis 38-3-162-2, Muttiah Muralitharan 37-0-175-2, Tillakaratne Dilshan 3-0-17-0. Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan c Ojha b Khan 0 Tharanga Paranavitana not out 30 Kumar Sangakkara not out 30 Extras: (4b, 1lb, 1nb) 6 TOTAL: (for 1 wicket, 24 overs) 66 Fall of wickets: 1-0. Bowling: Zaheer Khan 7-3-14-1, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth 6-0-29-0, Harbhajan Singh 7-3-9-0, Pragyan Ojha 4-2-9-0 (1nb).