If Sri Lanka held the upper hand at Ahmedabad, it was India all the way in Kanpur. Right from winning the toss to putting up a mammoth score on board to decimating the Lankan batting line-up, each and every thing went right for India. And so when the fourth and, what turned out to be the final day of the Test began, only the formalities needed to be completed. And India wrapped things up midway through the day. The end could have come a lot earlier but for some stubborn resistance by Thilan Samaraweera and good support by Ajantha Mendis. Still, it was an imposing victory for India, their 100th in Test matches and biggest ever against Lanka.
The day began with the visitors precariously placed at 57/4 and even though they batted positively – 149 runs were added in the morning session – the Indians kept picking up wickets at regular intervals, ensuring Sri Lanka never got a partnership going. Overnight batsman Angelo Matthews began by crashing an off-target Zaheer Khan for three cracking boundaries. The left-arm seamer though soon had his revenge as he got Matthews caught by Dravid. The remaining batsmen too continued to go after the bowlers. One really could not point a finger at the batsmen since they were in a no-win situation. Defending would have got them nowhere and the only hope they had of salvaging some pride was to make India bat again. They fell well short of that target as well as the home side romped hope by a whopping margin of an innings and 144 runs.
Following Matthews exit, there was some resistance in the form of a partnership between Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene. The two added 61, with Jayawardene in particular impressing with his strokeplay. But just when he looked good for a lot more a yawning gap between bat and pad saw his furniture being disturbed. A delivery from Harbhajan Singh, which drifted back in after pitching, did the trick. In came Rangana Herath, threw his bat around for a run-a-ball 13 before becoming Harbhajan’s second victim of the day and third of the innings, trapped plumb in front of the stumps.
The most entertaining albeit short phase of the day, however, came when the maverick Muttiah Muralitharan walked out to bat. With nothing at stake, he used to long handle and enjoyed himself at the expense of the Indian spinners. Harbhajan was thrashed for plenty in one over and Pragyan Ojha too wasn’t treated differently. Murali had slammed two sixes and three fours in his 29, when Ojha managed to slip one through his slogging bat.
All this while, Samaraweera was solid as ever, notching up yet another half-century. He found an able ally in Mendis, who was prepared to defend and not just wield the willow mercilessly. The duo added 73 and frustrated the Indian bowlers, taking the game well beyond lunch. Neither looked in any kind of trouble against the same spinners who had looked threatening earlier in the day. Finally, MS Dhoni had to turn partnership breaker Yuvraj Singh and he did not disappoint, brining an end to Mendis’ resolute. Soon, Ojha brought the curtains down on the game having Chanaka Welegedara caught and bowled and India had registered a historic and memorable win. S. Sreesanth did not have much to do on this day, but his contribution the day before was telling enough to earn him the player of the match.
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