Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sehwag assault leaves Lanka dazed

Virender Sehwag hit a swashbuckling double century as India seized control at the end of day two of the final Test against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.

Sri Lanka, needing victory to draw the series, steadily lost ground as Virender Sehwag hammered a pedestrian-looking attack around the park, scoring an undefeated 284 - his sixth double century and the game's third highest individual score in one day's play.

He dominated sizeable partnerships with fellow opener Murali Vijay (87) and Rahul Dravid (62 not out) as India closed on 443 for one, 50 runs ahead of Sri Lanka's total of 393 and in position for a huge first innings lead.

The visitors had begun the day badly, losing batsman Angelo Mathews for 99 and being bowled out within 27 minutes of play resuming in the morning.

Mathews required 14 runs for his maiden Test century and raced into the nineties by edging Sreesanth for a boundary, the ball falling just short of VVS Laxman at second slip.

He had moved closer to the mark with more fluent drive for four and was within two runs of the three-figure mark when he pulled Sreesanth to deep square leg and turned for a second run when Mahendra Singh Dhoni collected a precise throw from Sachin Tendulkar and dislodged the bails.

Replays showed the toe end of Mathews' bat was just over the line, but in the air when the bails were removed and he returned to the pavilion.

The other overnight batsman Muttiah Muralitharan was undefeated on four, while Chanaka Welegedara was the last man to be dismissed - leg before to Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner finishing with three for 101 from 23.4 overs.

Sri Lanka's total - achieved with considerable labour - was expected to test the home side, but Sehwag and Vijay quickly rendered the advantage ineffective with an almost effortless display.

Vijay, playing in only his second Test in the absence of regular opener Gautam Gambhir, had calmed nerves with a sensible, yet punishing approach.

He reached his maiden Test fifty by stepping out and hitting Muralitharan for a towering six over long on and continued to accumulate runs easily, leaving Kumar Sangakkara struggling for the breakthrough.

The opening duo had added 221 for the first wicket when Rangana Herath, who had grassed Vijay on 67, eventually found success, trapping the batsman in front as the opener attempted a sweep.

There was no respite for Sri Lanka, however, as Dravid continued from where Vijay left off.

He hit Muralitharan for consecutive boundaries on either side of the wicket early in his innings and provided admirable support for Sehwag as India steadily closed in on Sri Lanka's total.

Sehwag ferociously launched into attack once he had adjusted to the conditions.

He cut and drove with power and precision and was particularly harsh on the spinners, ensuring they never found their groove.

He reached his century off 101 deliveries by sweeping Muralitharan for four, but his second 100 was achieved in even more blistering fashion, coming off just 67 deliveries.

Sehwag, hampered with a back injury suffered just before the tea interval, hit Kulasekara for three consecutive boundaries to reach 196, went to 198 with two runs through the covers and reached his sixth double century with another boundary in the over.

Sri Lanka's already deficient attack suffered another blow as left-arm paceman Welegedara pulled up short with an injury while running in for a fresh spell in the final session.

Sehwag reached the 250-run mark with a reverse-swept boundary off Muralitharan, passing the milestone off 207 deliveries and went on to reach his highest score in a day, smashing 40 boundaries and seven sixes in his 239-delivery innings.

It took India less than three sessions to overhaul Sri Lanka's total, scoring more than 400 runs in a day for the second time in as many Tests.

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