Sri Lanka up against India’s 642 on a dicey track (Lead)

Kanpur, Nov 25 ( India’s lower-order crash triggered by left-arm spinner Rangana Herath after Rahul Dravid’s 28th century may have rattled the Sri Lankans seeing the way the Green Park pitch responded to the spinners in the second cricket Test here Wednesday.

Thouh the Sri Lankans lost only one wicket scoring 66 in reply to India’s 642, they realise that it is getting increasingly difficult to survive on a pitch of variable bounce and turn.

Kumar Sangakkara (30) and Tharanga Paranavitana (30) survived a harrowing last hour as off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and debutant left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha made batting look difficult.

Harbhajan was in good rhythm, troubling both the batsmen, and could have got a couple of leg-before appeals in his favour.

India were delighted to get rid of dangerous Dilshan with the first ball of the innings when he top-edged a Zaheer Khan delivery and Pragyan Ojha pouched it.

Zaheer and comeback man Shanthakumaran Sreesanth bowled well with the new ball. Sreesanth, in particular, troubled Sangakkara with his late swing and the Sri Lanka skipper was badly beaten a couple of times.

But it was Harbhajan and Ojha who lifted the Indian spirits. The wicket, which saw Indian top order making merry with Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Herath, started playing tricks when the Sri Lankans batted.

In fact, Herath (5-121) found the pitch crumble in the second hour after lunch and quickly ran through the Indian innings, the last six wickets falling for a mere 29 runs. Herath bagged five of these.

But by then Dravid (144), Laxman (63) and Yuvraj Singh (67) had ensured that the hosts cash in on the advantage of the big first day total of 417 for two that included explosive centuries from Virender Sehwag (131) and Gautam Gambhir (167).

Dravid’s innings was cut short after he added 59 runs to his overnight score. He was run out backing up a bit too far as Herath, while attempting to hold on to a Laxman scorcher off his own bowling, spilled the ball back to the stumps.

India scored at a brisk rate in the morning session, adding 118 runs in 20 overs. Dravid was the dominant partner in the 94-run stand with Sachin Tendulkar (40).

Dravid, who struck a counter-attacking 177 in the drawn Ahmedabad Test, reached his second consecutive ton when he straight drove left-arm pacer Chanaka Welegedara for a four. His 226-ball effort had 15 fours and a sixer.

He crossed a milestone when he took a single off Herath to surpass Allan Border’s aggregate of 11,174 runs to become Test cricket’s fourth highest scorer after Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. Dravid now has 11,182 runs from 136 Tests at an average of 53.50.

After Dravid’s fall, Laxman and Yuvraj added 102 runs for the fifth wicket before Laxman got out trying to accelerate the scoring. India added 104 runs in the second session, but lost three wickets towards the end.

Laxman, whose 121-ball knock included five fours, was dismissed as he came down the track to clear mid-off, but holed out to Dilshan.

Three overs later, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was bowled through the gate, missing the line of a Herath delivery, while Harbhajan was out to a similar ball by the spinner.

India added only three runs after the tea break. Yuvraj was dismissed by Mendis while Zaheer and Sreesanth gave their wickets to Herath.