Zeecric Bureau / Pratik Dogra
Mumbai: Having been on the receiving end of Virender Sehwag’s fury for almost whole of yesterday, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni rubbed more salt on Sri Lankan wounds with a brilliant century to not only stretch the total to a mammoth 726/9, India’s highest ever, but also swell India’s lead to 333 runs.
Dhoni’s efforts virtually ensured that India would not have to bat again on a pitch that is expected to break down considerably over the next two days.
At 670/9, Indian innings seemed to be heading for a close, but Pragyan Ojha (5 not-out) gave good support to Dhoni, allowing the latter to complete his second century of the series.
Dhoni’s 154 ball effort was like a balm to the heartburn caused by Virender Sehwag’s failure to complete 300 runs in the morning.
Sehwag had fallen agonizingly short of a slew of world records when he scooped a simple return catch to Muttiah Muralidaran off his own bowling.
Sehwag, who went into the day needing just 16 more to become first ever cricketer in Test cricket’s more than a century old history to score three triple hundreds, fell for 293 runs in just the day’s 4th over, much to the disappointment of not only the packed Brabourne Stadium audience, but also millions of Indian cricket fans around the world.
Sehwag had recorded the second fastest double hundred and the fastest 250 during his 239 ball, unbeaten 284 runs yesterday, lasting 254 balls for his masterpiece that was laced with 40 boisterous boundaries and 7 sixes.
Sehwag’s dismissal also brought curtains to the Rahul Dravid-Sehwag association that yielded 237 runs for the second wicket in just 43.1 overs.
India was 458/2 at the time of Sehwag’s dismissal, which became 487/3 when Dravid was caught behind by Prasanna Jayawardene off Welegedara for a well compiled 74.
Dravid, who has hit a purple patch in this series with scores of 177, 38 and 144 runs before this innings, played a perfect foil to Sehwag during latter’s exploits yesterday. He himself hit 5 fours and a six during his 147 ball knock.
Battered bowlers’ toil reaped more rewards as they succeeded not only in curbing India’s scoring rate, but also managed to pick the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar early in the second session.
Kulasekara had cleaned up Tendulkar’s stumps with a classic off-cutter to leave India at 558/4.
Having started off brightly, Tendulkar seemed to have slowed down mid-way, falling soon after completing his half-century. He made 53 runs from 103 balls, hitting 6 fours.
Tendulkar also shared a sedate 71 run-partnership with VVS Laxman for the fourth wicket.
Sri Lanka enjoyed their most productive session of the match when they pegged India back with some quick wickets post-lunch.
India had lost the wicket of VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in pursuit of quick runs, crawling to 629/7 at tea, with an overall lead of 235 runs.
With Yuvraj scratchy at his end, the onus was on Laxman to step up India’s scoring rate.
Post Tendulkar’s wicket, Laxman seemed to have found his timing as well, hitting some wonderful fours to complete a fine half-century. His efforts were however cut-short when he failed to connect to a flighted delivery of Muttiah Muralidaran and scooped a simple catch at mid-on to Nuwan Kulasekara.
Laxman scored 62 runs from 91 balls, with 9 sublime hits to the fence.
Yuvraj, who looked uncomfortable throughout his innings, fell as he attempted to clear the mid-off, but failed to get his timing right. He made 23 runs and was Rangana Herath’s first victim.
Harbhajan Singh scored just 1 run before Muralidaran made him his third victim.
After tea, Zaheer Khan (7) made his way back into the pavilion as the Sri Lankan spinner, who seemed dead ducks yesterday, suddenly discovered the bounce and bite pitch had to offer.
Muralidaran had picked up his fourth wicket as his bowling figures finally offered a semblance of respectability. He ended with figures off 4/195 from 51 overs while Rangana Herath picked 3/240 from 53.3 overs.
Chaneka Welagedara and Nuwan Kulasekara picked up a wicket each.