Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sreesanth puts India in control

An excellent bowling performance from Shanthakumaran Sreesanth on day three put India in sight of a comprehensive victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Kanpur.

Sreesanth, playing his first Test since April last year, claimed five first innings wickets as Sri Lanka were skittled for a meagre 229 in response to India's first innings total of 642.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni then chose to enforce the follow-on and Sreesanth again provided the breakthrough by dismissing the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan (11) as India tightened the noose.

The home side then picked up the wickets of Tharanga Paranavitana, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene cheaply as Sri Lanka ended the third day on 57 for four, still 356 behind India's first innings score.

Virender Sehwag, bowling his off-spinners for the first time in this match in the final session, sent back Paranavitana, while Mahela Jayawardene was run out, responding to a poor call from Sangakkara.

Sangakkara was then bowled by Harbhajan Singh via an inside edge as Sri Lanka collapsed to 54 for four.

Angelo Mathews (two not out) and Thilan Samaraweera (one not out) were at the crease when stumps were drawn.

The toast of the day, however, was Sreesanth as he made a triumphant return to international cricket.

The temperamental fast bowler was playing his first match since the Test against South Africa at this very venue, the 18-month interval spent recovering from injury.
The 26-year-old had produced the first breakthrough in the morning by snaring Paranavitana, the opener adding only eight to his overnight score of 30.

Paranavitana, troubled by Sreesanth from the start, edged an out-swinger and Dhoni threw himself to his left to hold a good catch in front of first slip.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan had looked off-colour all day and was warned in the morning for running on the pitch.

The left-arm seamer's lack of form played nicely into Sreesanth's hands as he bowled unchanged in an extended spell of nine overs, responding brilliantly to the heavy workload.

He bowled Sangakkara (44) via an inside edge as the batsman got down on one knee to drive and removed Samaraweera in similar fashion.

Minutes before the lunch interval, Harbhajan had caused further damage by bowling Mathews with one the turned just enough to beat the bat and clip the bails.

Sri Lanka had slipped to 138 for five at the lunch interval, but Mahela Jayawardene (47) and Prasanna Jayawardene (39) came together to offer a semblance of resistance.
The former captain, however, was fortunate to have stayed that long as Sreesanth had found the edge on the first delivery he faced, the ball safely falling between Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar at first slip, the two fielders helplessly watching each other.
Rahul Dravid then grassed another catch at first slip when the batsman was on 25, this time Harbhajan the unfortunate bowler.

The two Jayawardenes held firm in the first hour after lunch and in the process added 60 for the sixth wicket - Sri Lanka's only substantial stand after the 82 between the second wicket pair.

But Sreesanth returned to sever that stand, snaring Prasanna Jayawardene in the second over of his afternoon spell.

Sreesanth had fired the delivery well wide of the off stump and the wicketkeeper batsman slashed at it, only to feather a top edge to Dhoni.

Debutant left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who had kept a tight leash on Sri Lanka in the morning, was then rewarded with his first Test victim - Mahela Jayawardene.
The former captain had played patiently until he decided to come down the track to hit Ojha over the top, only to pick out Tendulkar at mid-on.

Sri Lanka's innings then unravelled quickly, with Sreesanth pegging back Rangana Herath's off stump for his fifth wicket - only his second five-wicket haul in Tests.
Ojha trapped Muttiah Muralitharan in front to finish with two for 37 from 23 overs, while Harbhajan claimed the last wicket of Chanaka Welegedara to also finish with two wickets from the first innings.

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