Aug 9, 2008

Columnists - Ravi Shastri

Another horror show with bat

India would be disappointed by their effort on the first day of the final Test. An important toss was won, the start was fabulous but then the story of this tour repeated itself.

The Fab Four have one more innings to redeem themselves but it seems the Sri Lankan spinners have tied them in knots.

Only, it was not the spinners but a rookie pacer who added to their misery. Dammika Prasad isn’t genuinely quick but he moves the ball off the seam.

He claimed Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar with deliveries that moved in sharply, both in the air and off the wicket.

That he also accounted for Virender Sehwag, clearly tells his potential. Ajantha Mendis added to another of his now trademark five-wicket hauls. His has been the most impressive debut for a while now. He has been the reason India have consistently struggled to put 250 runs. The fact that he could spin the ball both ways with disguise even on a first day track makes him special.

Then there was Muttiah Muralitharan, who at the moment, is having a complete hold on Sourav Ganguly. Murali is forcing the left-hander to chase his prodigiously turning off-spin and Ganguly is like a moth drawn to his doom.

One wouldn’t be exaggerating in stating that the Indian middle order greats are probably low on confidence. I detect an extravagant movement of the front foot across the off-stump by Dravid and Tendulkar, which is making them prime candidates for lbws. This usually happens when you are not sure of your off-stump or haven't spent too much time at the crease.

It isn’t the first time they have been dismissed so in this series. But you dismiss them at your own peril.

There is too much class in these men to doubt them.

The last wicket pair of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma showed what common sense could still achieve and their last wicket stand of 51 runs could turn out to be priceless. They also inflicted a dent in the Lankan innings by close, which should allow the tourists to approach the second day with more hope than trepidation.

Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene hold the key to their response. The fate of this series lies squarely in the success and failure of these two men tomorrow.

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