Cricinfo reviews the India-Sri Lanka Test Series

Close series between rivals with bare cupboards

 Sidharth Monga, August 8, 2010

It is a credit to both teams that despite the overkill of cricket between the two nations, despite the dead pitch at the SSC, despite the lack of bowling resources, they played out two tense Test matches





This Indian team is pretty adept at digging a hole for itself. It is equally adept and finding a way out of it too. That’s why writing this side off is hazardous. Here we are talking about the Test side, not other disciplines. It was an incredible show of character that with their most inexperienced attack since 2000-01, on a ground where Sri Lanka have not lost since 1994, with three first-choice and one second-choice player out, India came back to square this series. India, after losing all the tosses, also ended Sri Lanka’s nine-year run of not losing a home Test after winning the toss.

When asked if this was the most special win of his captaincy career, considering the huge effort required, considering that for the first 11 days of the series a Test win looked completely out of reach, MS Dhoni sounded blasé. He had reason to feel so. “It’s not the first time I’m the captain and we’re one-down and we have to win to level the series,” he said. “To pick one of the Test matches among the few I’ve played or captained is difficult. Every win is special, like the South Africa Test we played in Kolkata or any other.”

There is some truth to that. This team has developed a habit of bouncing back immediately after a devastating loss. In 2007-08 South Africa absolutely demolished India in Ahmedabad, only to see them come back in Kanpur. Later that year India bounced back in Galle after a demoralising loss at the SSC. After the infamous SCG defeat, they stunned Australia at the WACA. Earlier this year, they staged a comeback in the Test Dhoni talked about, immediately after Dale Steyn’s destruction in Nagpur.

“It shows what this team is all about and what we can do in pressure situations,” Gary Kirsten, a man known for doggedness himself, said of the P Sara win. That they keep putting themselves in pressure situations is something India need to address.

For starters, they haven’t played a single international game – across formats – with their first-choice XI since Sri Lanka’s last tour of India, last November. When they were fighting to justify their No. 1 status, they should ideally have been nursing their niggles, getting ready for a season that will culminate in the World Cup at home. They made a slow start obviously – it took the rookie bowlers three Tests and a helpful pitch to make an impact.

The batsmen failed in Galle, for which they had only one excuse, that of Lasith Malinga’s magic, and since then India were fighting a near-impossible fight. Good fortune arrived when Sachin Tendulkar was dropped with India fighting to avoid the follow-on at the SSC, and since then the batting line-up ceased being just Virender Sehwag. Tendulkar, Suresh Raina and VVS Laxman joined in, playing big knocks at crucial times.

That to the Indians this drawn series seemed as good as a win is a tribute to how good Sri Lanka are at home. They know their conditions perfectly, they know exactly how to play in those conditions, and they rarely fail to execute those plans. For the first 11 days, it went almost perfectly according to the script, except for Tendulkar’s dropped catch.

Kumar Sangakkara batted beautifully for his century, double-century and fifty in the three Tests, Tharanga Paranavitana promised to solve their opening problem, Mahela Jayawardene contributed even though he didn’t look at his flowing best. Thilan Samaraweera wasn’t exactly needed in the first two Tests, but when his team needed him in the third Test, he was there.

Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan made for a heady first Test, a perfect farewell to Murali. The need to preserve Malinga hurt Sri Lanka in the second Test, and even in the third, Sangakkara got him to bowl just six overs on the final day. It would be premature to call it bad captaincy, because perhaps Malinga’s body was at the brink again.

It is easy to forget that Sri Lanka were themselves low on resources after Murali’s retirement, a fact underlined by the need to risk Malinga’s body. Suraj Randiv was a good addition, as he showed with that valiant spell over the last two days at the P Sara Oval, but the bowling cupboard looks slightly bare.

The first Test wasn’t gripping throughout, but once India started crumbling, it was always going to be an exciting finish. P Sara Oval was perhaps the perfect Test, except for some tired captaincy at times from both leaders. It is a credit to both teams that despite the overkill of cricket between the two nations, despite the dead pitch at the SSC, despite the lack of bowling resources, they played out two tense Test matches. Now for some break in India-Sri Lanka ties…


Sri Lanka take the stats honours: Sri Lanka scored more runs, lost fewer wickets, and made India sweat through most of the three matches

S Rajesh, August 9, 2010


Thilan Samaraweera: another outstanding home series against India © Associated Press


Related LinksAnalysis : Close series between rivals with bare cupboards

Players/Officials: Suraj Randiv | VVS Laxman | Suresh Raina | Thilan Samaraweera | Kumar Sangakkara | Virender Sehwag | Sachin Tendulkar

Matches: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (PSS)

Series/Tournaments: India tour of Sri Lanka

Teams: India | Sri Lanka

In terms of stats, Sri Lanka clearly outdid India in the three-Test series which finished in Colombo on Saturday. They scored more runs, lost fewer wickets, and made India sweat through most of the three matches. (It helped, of course, that they won all three tosses.) India, though, capitalised on the only opportunity they got of winning a game, leaving the series tied at 1-1, and their hold on the No.1 rank still reasonably secure.

Sri Lanka’s huge totals in the first two Tests meant they averaged almost 60 runs per wicket in the series. They also lost ten fewer wickets than India, who averaged less than 45. Two batsmen from the Sri Lankan team, Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera, averaged more than 100, while two others, Tharanga Paranavitana and Mahela Jayawardene, had 50-plus averages. The only Indian with a 100-plus average was Suresh Raina, though three others – VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag – averaged more than 65.

The glaring difference, though, was in the bowling stats. The best bowling average among the Indians belonged to Sehwag, who took seven wickets at 27.57. Among the specialist bowlers, Amit Mishra had the best average at 46.75, though that number clearly flattered him. Ishant Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun and Pragyan Ojha, India’s leading wicket-taker, all conceded more than 60 runs per wicket. Among the Sri Lankans, though, three bowlers – Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga and Suraj Randiv – had sub-35 averages.

Sri Lanka and India in the three-Test series
Team Runs Wickets Average Run rate 100s/ 50s
Sri Lanka 2079 35 59.40 3.67 6/ 9
India 2015 45 44.77 3.47 5/ 9

The average partnerships for each wicket also shows how dominant Sri Lanka’s top order was: their average stands for the first five wickets all exceeded 50, with the second-wicket partnership being particularly prolific. Their opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Paranavitana were consistent as well, with four half-century stands.

India’s top-order stands, on the other hand, were patchy. Of the first four wickets, the average partnership was more than 50 only for the third wicket. India were saved by the partnerships for the fifth and sixth wickets, with Tendulkar, Laxman and Raina leading the way: each of them was involved in two century stands for the fifth wicket.

Partnerships for each wicket for Sri Lanka and India
Wicket SL – average 100/ 50 stands Ind – average 100/ 50 stands
First 69.40 0/ 4 45.20 1/ 0
Second 94.40 2/ 1 34.40 0/ 1
Third 63.80 1/ 1 53.80 1/ 1
Fourth 76.75 1/ 1 35.20 0/ 2
Fifth 50.66 0/ 2 97.60 3/ 0
Sixth 20.00 0/ 0 69.50 0/ 3
Seventh 23.67 0/ 0 11.75 0/ 0
Eighth 52.67 1/ 0 41.00 0/ 2
Ninth 82.50 1/ 0 29.75 0/ 1
Tenth 14.00 0/ 0 19.00 0/ 0

For the Sri Lankan batsmen, this series was a fine opportunity to boost their home record against India. In the seven home Tests that Samaraweera has played against India, he averages more than 130, with three centuries and as many fifties. Sangakkara and Jayawardene both average more than 70.

Sri Lankan batsmen against India at home
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Thilan Samaraweera 7 652 130.40 3/ 3
Kumar Sangakkara 9 892 74.33 4/ 2
Mahela Jayawardene 12 1194 70.23 5/ 4
Tillakaratne Dilshan 6 401 50.12 1/ 2

Among the Indians, Rahul dravid was the big disappointment, scoring only 95 runs in five innings. His overall average in Sri Lanka slips to 33.10, which is his lowest in any country. Laxman’s unbeaten matchwinner in the last Test is his first hundred in the country, while Tendulkar and Sehwag continued the fine run they’ve had in Sri Lanka.

Indian batsmen against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Virender Sehwag 6 692 69.20 3/ 2
Sachin Tendulkar 12 1155 67.94 5/ 4
VVS Laxman 7 530 48.18 1/ 4
Rahul Dravid 12 662 33.10 1/ 4

Contrasting fortunes against Randiv

One of the fascinating aspects of the series was the performance of debutant Suraj Randiv. He was hardly fazed by the powerful Indian batting line-up, and almost led his side to victory in the third Test. His stats against Sehwag are interesting: Sehwag scored 30 runs off 28 deliveries from Randiv – clearly the idea was to try to take the initiative against the debutant – but Randiv easily had the better of the exchanges, dismissing Sehwag three times. Dravid didn’t have a good time against him either, but most of the other Indian batsmen handled him well. Raina and Laxman faced more than 140 deliveries from him without getting out, while Tendulkar fell to him only once. Had Dilshan take that sharp chance offered by him on the last day in Colombo, though, Randiv’s final figures in the game, and the series result, could have been very different.

Indian batsmen against Suraj Randiv
Batsman Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Rahul Dravid 5 22 2 2.50 1.36
Virender Sehwag 30 28 3 10.00 6.42
VVS Laxman 61 141 0 2.59
Suresh Raina 71 149 0 2.85
Sachin Tendulkar 131 221 1 131.00 3.55


S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo


India in Sri Lanka 2010

Sehwag sparkles and Raina grabs his chance

Sehwag entertained, Laxman proved his critics wrong again and Raina took his chance to play Test cricket in style

Sidharth Monga in Sri Lanka

Virender Sehwag entertained
Started off with a sparkling century, then fell prey to what he calls boring cricket. Was guilty of not respecting a new offspinner enough, and even got out to a defensive stroke, which by Sehwag’s definition, is a huge crime. But hey, look at what he did: two smashing 109s and a 99, an average of 69.6 and a strike-rate of 97.47. There is obviously more to admire than to complain about.

Gautam Gambhir played just five balls
Was at the wrong end of superb spells from Lasith Malinga in Galle, and then injured his knee before the second Test. Played no further part in the series.

M Vijay fit in, just about
Even though the SSC pitch was flat, Vijay had, and usually has, the disadvantage of getting ready for a Test match at a short notice. Scored 58, 14 and 27 in the three innings he got, but looked better than that.

Rahul Dravid didn’t struggle but made mistakes
Never really looked in trouble, but found ways to get out. He ran himself out in the first innings in Galle, hit straight to backward short leg in the second; fell over when facing Angelo Mathews in the first innings of the last Test, and watched the ball topspin onto the stumps after his dead-bat defensive. Will be disappointed.

Sachin Tendulkar brought sanity
Got a ripper from Malinga while trying to save the Galle Test, but kept his head after the Sehwag madness at the SSC and saved the Test with a double-century. Played a bad shot in the first innings at P Sara but made up for it with a crucial fifty on the final day.

VVS Laxman shut his critics up again
Once again came up with a special knock when the team most needed it, making up for the disappointment of getting run out when batting with the tail in Galle with a draw still a remote possibility. When the hour came, though, so did Laxman.

Yuvraj Singh had a middling tour
Scored a fluent century in the tour game, then a fifty in Galle, but was owned twice by Murali. Then came a bout of fever before the second Test, after which he was kept out by his replacement.

Suresh Raina took the chance that came his way
Scored a century on debut that came at a time when India were staring at a third straight instance of failing to reach the follow-on mark on the tour. The increase in confidence showed in the assured manner with which he knocked off the final few runs in a tense chase at the P Sara Oval.

MS Dhoni wasn’t at his best
Struggled with the keeping because of an injured finger, dropped a catch in the first Test, and failed with the bat. Looked tired as a captain too, falling back sooner than he perhaps should have.

Harbhajan Singh will like to forget the tour
Landed. Got swine flu. Two wickets in four bowling innings, playing with the after-effects of the flu and a side strain. Played a horror shot in Galle when the team needed him. Injured his calf just before the third Test, on the most helpful pitch, and went home.

Abhimanyu Mithun and Ishant Sharma put in all they had
One a debutant; one a young man forced to become the leader of the attack. Both of them kept running in, impressing the team management immensely with their spirit. Weren’t the most fortunate, but also stuck it out with the bat.

Pragyan Ojha was persisted with, correctly
Struggled when bowling first on good batting surfaces in the first two Tests, but with the turn at the P Sara Oval, came into his element. Took seven wickets in the match, including Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene twice.

Amit Mishra can do better
Struggled with no-balls both in the tour game and in the only Test he played. Still managed to find himself on a hat-trick and also scored a crucial 40.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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India in Sri Lanka 2010

Murali says goodbye and Paranavitana impresses

Muralitharan left in style, Pranavitana stepped up at the top and Mendis lost his mystery

Sidharth Monga in Sri Lanka

August 8, 2010


Tillakaratne Dilshan will kick himself
Got off to three good starts, but failed to convert any into a big century. Dropped Sachin Tendulkar at a crucial moment on the final day of the series.

Tharanga Paranavitana looked solid at the top
Yet to prove himself in more testing away conditions, but didn’t waste starts and scored back-to-back Test centuries. Sri Lanka appear closer to finding an able opening partner for Dilshan.

Kumar Sangakkara plundered in style
Batted fluently for his century, double-century and 75 in the three Tests. Was always at the heart of Sri Lanka’s attempts at batting first and batting big. Was unorthodox with his captaincy; the moves worked at times, at others they didn’t.

Mahela Jayawardene didn’t look at his best
A batsman would usually take scores of 48, 174 and 56 in the first innings of three Tests, but Jayawardene wasn’t at his best in the series. He almost always started scratchily, keeping the bowlers interested.

Thilan Samaraweera clicked when it counted
Was hardly required in the first two Tests, but his 137 not out and 83 in the final Test, batting with the tail on a difficult pitch, underlined his importance to the team.

Angelo Mathews did not get to do much
Got three chances to bat and bowled just 27 overs. Looked fluent while getting starts, but never kicked on. Gifted his wicket in the last innings of the series.

Prasanna Jayawardene will rue that chance
Arguably the world’s best wicketkeeper, but made a huge mistake when he dropped a fairly simple offering from Sachin Tendulkar at the SSC when India were struggling to avoid the follow-on in the second Test. Tendulkar went on to score a double-century; a turning point in the series.

Lasith Malinga was on and off
When he was on, boy was he on! But when we was off, he missed one full Test, and then bowled just six overs on the last, crucial, day of the series. Became Sri Lanka’s third-highest all-time wicket-taker during the series.

Muttiah Muralitharan signed off in style
Going into his farewell Test, he wanted eight wickets, and a Sri Lanka win. Bowled long spells, got quick breakthroughs, worked hard at times, but like Richard Hadlee, finished his career with a wicket-taking delivery. This one won Sri Lanka the match too.

Suraj Randiv showed heart
Was welcomed to Test cricket with a boundary from Virender Sehwag, but came back to get his tormentor out thrice in three innings. Bowled unchanged for 21 overs in the final innings of the third Test, and 29 overs out of a total of 68.3, taking 5 for 82.

Ajantha Mendis’ mystery seems over
Still not a bad bowler now that he is familiar, but he showed that he needed generous pitches to become dangerous, like he did in patches at P Sara. The bat talked louder in two important partnerships with Samaraweera.

Chanaka Welegedara showed limitations
Although he got Sehwag’s wicket twice in Galle, was dropped for the second Test. Rightly too, as he showed in the third. His real threat was only with the swing with the new ball, but there too Sehwag feasted on him.

Dilhara Fernando and Dammika Prasad were cannon fodder
On a lifeless pitch at the SSC, the two bowlers were brought in to replace the injured Malinga and out-of-form Welegedara. Neither did enough, though, to retain his place for the decider.

Rangana Herath was overlooked for more attacking bowlers
India tormented him in India too, and continued to play him without trouble in Galle, giving him just one wicket in 45 overs. Despite a timely 80 not out, didn’t play any further part in the series.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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