New Delhi:On a flat Colombo track, Indian batting struggled to last even a day and was bundled for
249 runs on the first day of the final Test at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium. In reply, Sri Lanka were 14/1 at stumps. Ishant Sharma bowled out Malinda Warnapura for just eight runs.
At one stage it seemed India would fail to cross even the 200-run mark but the last batting pair of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma definitely saved some blushes as the pace duo added 51 runs for the last wicket and took India past 200. Their seniors in the dressing room must have rued their dismissals as Zaheer (32) and Ishant (17*) attacked loose balls and offered respect to the ones that deserved. But, Zaheer was stumped and perished as Ajantha Mendis' fifth wicket.
Gautam Gambhir was the top scorer with 72 runs for the visitors, who kept losing wickets regularly. Sri Lankan bowlers Dammika Prasad, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis kept the pressure on Indians. They not only hit the right spots but also got their referral requests bang on target.
Mendis picked another 5-wicket haul while Murali dismissed two batsmen. Dammika Prasad made an impressive Test debut as he made early inroads in the Indian line-up and picked three crucial wickets. He first struck to remove Indian opener Virender Sehwag for 21 runs. Electing to bat first, Sehwag added 51 runs with Gambhir for the first wicket before Sehwag edged a delivery tentatively and keeper Prasantha Jayawardene gloved it successfully.
Rahul Dravid was his second victim, who was caught plumb off a straight delivery that kept low. He scored just 10 runs when Sri Lankans asked for the referral from upstairs. The TV replays showed he had his front foot far too across and the ball clearly hit his pad in line. Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar too failed to score big and lost his wicket in the similar fashion. He scored just 6 runs.
Sourav Ganguly showed some resistance but he didn't last long. Murali struck at a time when India was recovering from a mini collapse of the morning session. He broke the partnership between Ganguly and Gambhir as he foxed the former with his spin. Ganguly, who came after Sachin's dismissal, made 35 runs to add 49 runs for the fourth wicket with Gambhir.
VVS Laxman scored 25 runs before wicketkeeper stumped him off Mendis's bowling. Gambhir was his first prey. The southpaw was instrumental in building crucial partnerships with Sehwag and Ganguly. Comeback man Parthiv Patel and Anil Kumble fell in Mendis' same over.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakratne Dilshan, Prasantha Jayawardene, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dammika Prasad, Thilan Samaraweera, Kumar Sangakkara, Chaminda Vaas, Michael Vandort, Malinda Warnapura.
India: Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar.