Ahmedabad: Faced with a daunting prospect of surviving one and a half days on a turning Motera wicket, India, led by its openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, made spirited advances towards the massive task they faced.
Seemingly undeterred by the fact that India need to score at least 334 runs in their second innings to just make Sri Lanka bat again, Sehwag and Gambhir showcased a positive frame of mind, ensuring in the process, that contrary to the horrific start India had to endure in the first innings, the second innings had a smoother commencement of proceedings.
India ended the fourth day at 190/2, still 144 runs adrift of Sri Lanka.
The Delhi-duo had given India a flying start as they anchored the team safely to tea at 77/0 in just 16 overs.
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However after tea, India received a massive jolt in their quest when Sehwag scooped up an extravagant slog into the hands of Angelo Mathews at mid-on off Rangana Herath, immediately after completing his half-century.
He fell for 51 runs off just 67 balls smashing 7 fours as India lost their first wicket for 81 runs.
India suffered their second hiccup when Chanaka Welegedara removed first innings’ centurion Rahul Dravid for 38 runs.
With just 5 overs left in the day’s play, Amit Mishra was promoted to number 4 position as a night-watchmen and along with Gambhir, he saw-off the day without any further reverses.
With possibilities of victory out of question, the best team India could strive for is an honorable draw.
Gambhir, unbeaten on 74 runs, was key to India’s fortunes going into the final day as the onus is now on the star-studded batting line-up to deliver the goods as India attempt to starve off what would be their first ever defeat to Sri Lanka on home soil.
With Motera track crumbling and spinners likely to pose some tough questions, the Indian batsmen are still a long away from the annals of safety.
Lankans declare at 760/7; lead by 334 runs
Earlier, Lankans did a huge favour on the Indian bowlers when they finally opted for a declaration, half-way into the fourth day’s play of the first Test of the 3-match Jaypee series here at Ahmedabad.
In reply to India’s first innings score of 426 runs, the Sri Lankans amassed a mammoth 760/7 to take a 334 run lead over their hosts.
Resuming the day at 591/5, the Jayawardenes continued their rich vein of form into scoring runs at a fast clip as the visitors virtually batted India out of contention in this Test match.
Prasanna Jayawardene wasted little time in bringing up his second Test century, with Sri Lanka swelling their lead in excess of 200 runs.
Meanwhile, records continued to tumble as Mahela, who started the day on 204, went on to compile a fine 250 runs.
The duo maintained fine tempo, flogging the hapless Indian bowlers mercilessly.
At lunch, Sri Lankans were 708/5 with an overall lead of 282 runs.
Having gone wicket-less for 4 sessions, Indians finally managed a breakthrough when a tired Mahela, seduced by flight, charged down the ground for a loft, only to completely miss the line of the ball and lose his stumps.
Mahela fell for an epic 275 runs, lasting 435 balls. His effort was sprinkled with 27 sublime hits to the fence and a solitary six.
The Mahela-Prasanna association yielded 351 runs for the sixth wicket, which is now a world record.
Dhamika Prasad made 21 before sacrificing his wicket in pursuit of quick runs. With his dismissal, Sri Lankan captain Kumara Sangakkara decided that he had enough runs on the board and declared the innings.
Prasanna Jayawardene finished on a personal best score of 154 runs. He hit just 11 fours in his 314 ball stay, playing the perfect foil to his senior namesake.
Bowling figures of the Indian bowlers presented a sorry tale.
Spearhead Zaheer Khan returned with a haul of 2 wickets for 109 runs from his 36 overs, both his successes coming day before yesterday, while his new-ball partner Ishant Sharma too had as many wickets from his 33 overs. He went for 135 runs.
However, the biggest disappointments from India’s point of view were the lack of returns fetched by their spinners.
While Harbhajan Singh did pick 2 wickets from his nearly 49 overs, Amit Mishra’s lonely scalp in 58 overs came at the expense of 203 runs.
What would be even more worrisome for Mahendra Singh Dhoni was that both of them rarely threatened the batsmen.
Meanwhile, the match presents some unique trivia so far. Wicketkeepers of both the teams have struck hundreds in this game.
Not only this, the match also presents the rare occasion in which both the teams have had double century partnerships for their sixth wickets!