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Saturday, August 2, 2008

India bat themselves to a strong position

A spirited India tilted the balance of the second cricket Test in their favour by taking an overall lead of 237 runs to push Sri Lanka on the backfoot at close on the third day here today.

The visitors first dismissed the hosts for 292 to snatch a vital 37-run lead with Harbhajan Singh (6/102) playing a key role and then gave a solid batting display to reach a comfortable 200 for four when play was called off early due to bad light.
After two days of ding-dong battle, the Indians have now put themselves in a position to push for a series-levelling victory after being trounced by an innings and 239 runs in the first Test in Colombo.

Sourav Ganguly and the stylish VVS Laxman were at the crease at stumps without having opened their accounts on an absording day's play which saw nine wickets fall.
With two full days left in the match, the Indians will now seek to take a substantial lead and hope to polish off the islanders quickly in the fourth innings when the track at the Galle International stadium was expected to deteriorate.

The day unfolded perfectly for the tourists as Harbhajan completed his 22nd five-wicket haul to bring Sri Lanka's first innings to an end just at the stroke of lunch. The off-spinner was ably supported by captain Anil Kumble who bagged three wickets.
Mahela Jayawardene was the top scorer for the home team with a responsible 86 as they lost the remaining five wickets for the addition of 77 runs.
The Indians again got off to a solid start with the dashing Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir putting on 90 runs for the opening wicket to provide the platform for a big innings.

Sehwag scored a brisk 50 off 52 balls before falling to paceman Chaminda Vaas with Tillakaratne Dilshan taking a smart catch at the cover region.
Gambhir (74) and Dravid, who has not been in the best of forms, took the score to 144 before 'mystery' spinner Ajantha Mendis struck for the hosts by castling Gambhir with a gem of a delivery.
The Indians could have been in a more commanding position had they not lost Dravid (44) and Sachin Tendulkar (31) in quick succession in the fag end of the day.

The experienced Vaas accounted for Tendulkar as he induced an edge and Prasanna Jayawardene made no mistake behind the stumps.
Dravid was then adjudged leg before to Muttiah Muralitharan by the third umpire after the hosts opted to call for a review. Dravid appeared disappointed as he walked back to the pavilion.
From a comfortable 200 for two, the Indians slipped to 200 for four but still had a good control on the game.

Earlier, resuming at their overnight score of 215 for 5, Jayawardene resisted the Lankan innings from falling apart completely.
Just when it appeared the Sri Lankans would manage a sizeable lead in the first innings, the Sri Lankan skipper edged an Anil Kumble delivery to wicket keeper Dinesh Kaarthick, who did not make any mistake in gathering the ball.

Jayawardene, who made 86 in 188 balls, with the help of 10 fours, also shared a 63-run partnership with wicketkeeper batsman Prasanna Jayawardene to help the Islanders bridge the deficit..
Kumble plucked three wickets in tandem with Harbhajan Singh, who added two more scalps to his yesterday's tally of four exploiting the turning nature of the wicket.

Once Jayawardene returned to the pacilion, Ajantha Mendis was trapped leg before wicket off Kumble without scoring and Muttiah Muralitharan followed suit being caught by Sourav Ganguly off Harbhajan.
Prasanna, who was lucky to survive an appeal for catch by Rahul Dravid as soon as the play began, finally succumbed to the menacing Harbhajan.
The turbanator got his fifth wicket of the Sri Lankan innings when he forced the batsman to scoop a straight forward catch to VVS Laxman at backward short leg.

On an earlier occasion, the leg break of Kumble on the middle stump line drew Prasanna forward and he jabbed off the outer edge of the bat quite low in front of Dravid. The third umpire declared him not out.


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