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Murali's 800 lights up Sri Lanka's crushing win

S. Dinakar

India outplayed despite a valiant rearguard resistance on the final day of the first Test


THE MOMENT!Bowler extraordinaire Muttiah Muralitharan jumps for joy after scalping his 800th and final Test victim — Pragyan Ojha — on the final day of the first Micromax Test in Galle on Thursday.

GALLE: Muttiah Muralitharan jumped for joy, his radiant visage and big, bold eyes lighting up the arena. The moment marked a historic occasion for Test cricket.

The off-spinning wizard spun one away from the left-handed Pragyan Ojha for Mahela Jayawardene to hold a fine low catch at slip here on Thursday.

This was Muralitharan's 800th wicket in Tests — he is the only bowler to achieve the feat.

It was also a dream within a dream for Muralitharan. His last performance for Sri Lanka in Tests concluded with jubilant team-mates chairing him around the arena. The crowd cheered, fireworks lit the sky while a band paid tribute to a legend. What a farewell Test!

This was the perfect script for Sri Lanka and Muralitharan.

The Sri Lankan team provided a fitting finale to the champion cricketer. Pursuing 95 for victory, Kumar Sangakkara's men romped home by 10 wickets for a 1-0 lead in the three-match Micromax Test series.

The ebullient Tillakaratne Dilshan, who delighted with a 47-ball unbeaten 68, ended the contest with a ruthless six over mid-wicket off the off-colour Harbhajan Singh.

Earlier, pace spearhead Lasith Malinga donned a key role to finish with five for 50 in the Indian second innings. The Indian line-up was undone by his speed and thrust. Malinga was adjudged Man of the Match.

Two wickets and glory

The final day, however, belonged to Muralitharan even if the pitch held firm. He needed two wickets for 800 at the start of the day, prised out Harbhajan quickly before being frustrated by a fighting V.V.S. Laxman and a defiant Indian tail.

Sangakkara changed Muralitharan's ends, even had him bowling with the second new ball, but kept the off-spinning legend going amidst much tension and drama.

Muralitharan, eventually, needed to take the final wicket for an incredible landmark. Hunting for the last scalp, he finally got his man.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa applauded from the stands. And Muralitharan's family and friends celebrated.

From an Indian perspective, the performance of the much-vaunted Indian line-up in the Test was a huge let-down.

The resistance by the tailenders on day five put the of the rest of the batting in true perspective.

With a little more application, India could have saved the Test, especially after the second day had been washed out.

On day five, Laxman was batting with the right blend of caution and fluid strokeplay. The wristy flicks were on view, so were the elegant, upright drives on both sides.

The ace batsman found a willing partner Abhimanyu Mithun. The debutant, once again displaying temperament for Test cricket, got behind the line in both defence and offence.

Mithun's innings was terminated by a reverse swinging sizzler from Malinga.

Then, a battling ninth wicket partnership between Laxman (69) and a pleasingly straight-batted Ishant Sharma — he survived 106 balls for an unbeaten 31 — pegged back the Sri Lankans. Angelo Mathews' direct hit from short third-man at the striker's end terminated Laxman's determined effort. Then Ishant and Ojha proved hard to dislodge and the Indian total swelled to 338 before Muralitharan had the final say.

While the below par performance of the Indian spinners put the side under enormous pressure when it batted, India's accomplished batsmen should have displayed greater resolve and commitment.

Big letdown

What we witnessed was a batting display of fits and starts. The capitulation in the first innings hurt India. Sehwag whipped up a hundred but gave his wicket away when the side needed him to bat on. Rahul Dravid ran himself going for a non-existent second run, Sachin Tendulkar picked a wrong, fuller length ball to sweep and V.V.S. Laxman fell to a meek attempted pull. India lost too much ground.

Gautam Gambhir appeared clueless against Malinga and Sri Lanka was able achieve critical breakthroughs in both the innings. There were fighting efforts from Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in the second innings, but the lack of all round contributions hurt the side.

Malinga slipped into the role of Sri Lanka's pace spearhead with ease. His reverse swinging yorkers zeroed into the batsman at a furious pace; he was getting the ball to swing towards the shiny side at will.

The batsmen struggled to pick his reverse swing. Malinga is able to disguise this delivery extremely well. He delivers from a low sling-arm action and it is hard for the batsman to spot the point of release.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed baffled early in the day when a reverse swinging delivery which straightened after pitching cannoned into his stumps. It was a lethal ball from a gifted bowler.

Malinga's mix of hostile short-pitched stuff with the fuller length ball forced the batsmen to play from the crease with disastrous consequences.

Malinga left the field in the afternoon due to stiffness but had inflicted considerable damage by then.


Sri Lanka — 1st innings: 520 for eight decl.

India — 1st innings: 276.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c P. Jayawardene b Malinga 0 (3b), V. Sehwag c M. Jayawardene b Welegedera 31 (30b, 6x4), R. Dravid c Sangakkara b Malinga 44 (152b, 3x4), S. Tendulkar lbw b Malinga 84 (142b, 11x4, 1x6), V.V.S. Laxman (run out) 69 (127b, 5x4), Yuvraj c M. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 5 (14b, 1x4), M.S. Dhoni b Malinga 4 (5b, 1x4), Harbhajan lbw b Muralitharan 8 (14b, 1x4), A. Mithun lbw b Malinga 25 (59b, 5x4), Ishant (not out) 31 (106b, 4x4), P. Ojha c M. Jayawardene b Muralitharan 13 (50b, 1x4); Extras (b-5, lb-9, w-2, nb-8): 24; Total (in 115.4 overs): 338.

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Gambhir), 2-42 (Sehwag), 3-161 (Dravid), 4-172 (Tendulkar), 5-181 (Yuvraj), 6-186 (Dhoni), 7-197 (Harbhajan), 8-246 (Mithun), 9-314 (Laxman).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 17-2-50-5, Welegedara 10-2-43-1, Herath 27-3-60-0, Mathews 7-3-13-0, Muralitharan 44.4-7-128-3, Dilshan 10-1-30-0.

Sri Lanka — 2nd innings: N. Paranavitana (not out) 23 (42b, 4x4), T. Dilshan (not out) 68 (47b, 6x4, 1x6); Extras (w-1, nb-4): 5; Total (for no loss in 14.1 overs): 96.

India bowling: Mithun 5-0-33-0, Ishant 4-0-28-0, Ojha 3-0-11-0, Harbhajan 2.1-0-24-0 .

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