Sreesanth stars in a day of Indian domination
by Jinu Sabastian
DateLine: 26th November 2009
It was another day of Indian domination as Sri Lanka simply disintegrated under the pressure exerted by the Indian bowlers especially the comeback player Sreesanth who claimed five wickets for the second time in his career. Sreesanth bowled like a wind swinging the ball both ways confounding the Lankan batsmen as the visitors crumbled to a below par 229 giving India a massive lead of 413 runs. Forced to follow-on more horror was in store for the Lankans as they lost early wickets and ended the day meekly on 57 for the loss of four wickets still needing 356 runs to make the Indians bat again.
Dhoni started the day with Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth and the two medium pacers did not disappoint the skipper as they managed to keep the overnight batsmen, Sangakkara and Paranavitana, quiet with some tight bowling. Sreesanth in particular was very impressive as he was able to generate some good pace and also keep the ball in the corridor of uncertainty thus creating elements of doubt in the minds of the batsmen. Sreesanth bowled nine overs on trot and got the rewards for his efforts as he picked up three wickets in the first session. First he was able to get Paranavitana to edge one low to Dhoni who snapped up a smart catch, cleaned up Sangakkara and Samaraweera with the ones that kept low. He could have had Jayawardene early but an outside edge from the bat of Jayawardene eluded the keeper and the first slip to gift the batsman a life. Sreesanth was well supported by Pragyan Ojha who bowled extremely well as he kept the batsmen quiet by varying his pace and length and also purchasing some turn of the wicket to keep the batsmen guessing.
Dhoni kept an attacking field throughout and his bowlers responded well by bowling to the field thus keeping the batsmen on their toes by hitting the good lengths consistently. Sangakkara tried to break free by innovating some shots but poor shot selection did him in while Samaraweera committed the cardinal sin of playing on the back foot to a ball that kept low. Harbhajan Singh joined the party by castling a nervy Angelo Mathews with a beautiful off-spinner. He could have had Jayawardene who edged a doosra to Dravid at slip who put down a sharp catch. Prasanna Jayawardene looked nervous in the middle as he tried to go for some big shots with the field in but could not connect anything.
Post-lunch both the Jayawardenes looked for scoring opportunities and they did not fail. When the bowlers erred both the batsmen were quick enough to seize the opportunity to score some runs. Prasanna Jayawardene survived a close leg before appeal off Zaheer Khan who began to trouble the batsmen with some swing. But it was once again Sreesanth who separated the Jayawardene couple as he had Prasanna chase a wide one only to give a faint edge to keeper Dhoni to end a stand that produced 60 runs in 23.1 overs. Mahela Jayawardene tried to farm the strike but fell as he tried to go for some quick runs only to be holed-out in the deep to give Ojha his first Test wicket.
Sreesanth continued to spit fire and venom as he had the Lankan batsmen in quandary as he constantly moved the ball both ways beating the tentative pokes of Muralitharan and Herath on a consistent basis. He finally bagged his well-deserved fifth wicket when he cleaned up a clueless Herath with a superb off-cutter and the muted celebration from the maverick pacer showed that he has mellowed down a lot believing in making the ball talk rather than his on-field antics. Ojha and Harbhajan then took just seven overs to remove the last two wickets thus giving India a massive lead.
India unsurprisingly enforced the follow-on and Sreesanth immediately got into act as he removed a free stroking Dilshan with an excellent out-swinger which the batsman edged through to the keeper. Sangakkara and Paranavitana battled hard to keep the Indian bowlers at bay even getting some boundaries off a wayward Zaheer Khan. Dhoni brought in his spinners as early as the seventh over and seeing the turn that Harbhajan was getting Dhoni called in the services of the round arm off-spin of Sehwag who responded immediately to his captain's call by trapping an indecisive Paranavitana leg before with the one that skidded on. Disaster struck Sri Lanka in the form of a run-out when Sangakkara called Jayawardene for an ill-judged single only to find his former captain failing to beat an accurate throw from Yuvraj. Four balls later Sangakkara for the second time in the day played on to a straighter one from Harbhajan Singh as Sri Lanka sunk to 54 for 4. Samaraweera and Mathews played out some nervous moments before the close of day.