India crash to Sri Lankan spin in first Test

Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008, 16:30 [IST]
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Sri Lanka tightened their grip on the opening Test against India here on Saturday after yet another impressive performance from spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.

Muralithatan grabbed four wickets and debutant Mendis two as India struggled to reach 103-6 in their second innings at tea on the penultimate day after conceding a 377-run lead.

India were shot out for 223 in their first innings in reply to the hosts' massive 600-6 declared.

The Sri Lankan spin duo, who shared nine wickets in the first innings, returned to haunt India again with their clever variations. They never allowed any batsman to settle even on an easy-paced track.

Indian opener Virender Sehwag (13), star batsman Sachin Tendulkar (12) and Rahul Dravid (10) were initially given not out by umpires Mark Benson of England and Billy Doctrove of the West Indies.

But Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene requested the officials to review the decisions under a new experimental rule. They changed their decisions after consulting TV umpire Rudi Koertzen of South Africa.

Sehwag was trapped leg-before by off-spinner Muralithatan, while Tendulkar was caught by a diving Tillakaratne Dilshan at leg-slip off the same bowler after TV replays showed the ball hit pad and bat.

Dravid was caught bat-pad by close-in fielder Malinda Warnapura off Mendis.

India failed to read the spinners for the second successive time in the match, losing wickets at regular intervals. Opener Gautam Gambhir, Venkatsai Laxman and Sourav Ganguly also fell to spin.

Laxman, promoted in the batting order following his first-innings 56, contributed 21 this time before being trapped leg-before by Mendis, while Gambhir was stumped off Muralitharan after being beaten in the flight.

Muralitharan grabbed 5-84 in the first innings for his 64th haul of five or more wickets in a Test innings, while Mendis took 4-72.

Laxman was the lone Indian batsman to defy the spinners, completing his 34th Test half-century with six fours. He was the last man out, failing to read a Mendis googly.

He had only tail-enders to keep him company after India lost six wickets for a meagre 159 on Friday. But only last-man Ishant Sharma stayed with him for more than an hour in the morning session.

Sharma faced 54 balls for his unbeaten 13 after the fall of skipper Anil Kumble (one), Harbhajan Singh (nine) and Zaheer Khan (five) in the space of 18 runs.

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