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Published: Sunday, July 22, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Colombo: India's brittle batting faltered again after a solid start to leave Sri Lanka on the brink of victory in the third and decisive cricket Test on Saturday.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The Indians, trailing by 376 runs on the first innings, were struggling at 217 for seven in its second knock at stumps on the fourth day, still needing 159 to avoid an innings defeat.The Sri Lankans will return on the final day to complete the formalities that will give them a 2-1 win in the series.As in the first innings when India slid from 97 for no loss to 234 all out, the middle-order batsmen failed to build on the flying start provided by openers Shiv Das and Sadagopan Ramesh.The duo put on 107, their first century stand of the series, before the off spin of Muthiah Muralitharan and poor running between the wickets cost the tourists.Muralitharan, who grabbed eight wickets in the first innings, dismissed Das for 68 in the first session and Ramesh for 55 in the second in an unchanged spell of 29 overs.India's back was, however, broken after tea when Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif were run out in the space of 10 runs and captain Saurav Ganguly was dismissed for 30.Dravid made 36 when he drove Muralitharan to mid-on where Marvan Atapattu threw down the non-striker's stumps with a direct throw just as the batsman was completing a single.Television replays to determine whether Dravid was caught short of his crease proved inconclusive, but third umpire Tyronne Wijewardena ruled the batsman out.Kaif managed only five when Ganguly turned down his call for a sharp single and bowler Thilan Samaraweera broke the stumps after receiving a throw by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara.Samaraweera, who scored a century on debut on Friday, picked up his maiden Test wicket when Ganguly edged a ball to Mahela Jayawardene at first slip.In the next over, Sanath Jayasuriya bowled new batsman Sairaj Bahutule, leaving Hemang Badani (eight) and Sameer Dighe (four) together at the close of play.Das and Ramesh, who started the day at 28 for no less, batted through most of the morning session to take India to 112 for one at lunch.Das followed his 59 in the first innings with a fluent 68 before he was snapped up at silly point off Muralitharan just before lunch. The pint-sized opener was lucky to survive on 45 when Sri Lankan umpire Asoka De Silva declined to give him out caught at short mid-wicket by Jayasuriya off Muralitharan.Television replays showed the ball balloon off the bat and pad, but De Silva was convinced only the pad had been used. With Ramesh content to play second fiddle, Das attacked from the other end, brightening an overcast day with a superb cover drive off Muralitharan for four.Ramesh, who got out in the 40s in three previous innings in the series, crossed the half-century mark soon after lunch, before falling to a brilliant Muralitharan delivery for 55.The left-hander went back to play a defensive shot, but the ball passed the outside edge of the bat and clipped the off-bail. The good work of the openers, however, was wasted as India lost six wickets in the space of 110 runs to surrender the initiative.