Monday, August 4, 2008

India’s 170-run win levels series against Sri Lanka

Teenager Ishant Sharma gave a superb display of fast bowling to help India square the series with a 170-run victory over Sri Lanka in the second Test here on Sunday.

Sharma finished with 3-20 off 15 testing overs as Sri Lanka were shot out for 136 in their second innings in the closing session on the fourth day chasing a challenging 307-run target.

India lost the opening match of the three-Test series by an innings and 239 runs. The final match starts in Colombo on August 8.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (4-51) and leg-spinner (2-41) built on Sharma's effort to help their team win with more than a day to spare.

Harbhajan, who took six wickets in the first innings, completed his fifth haul of 10 or more wickets in a Test.

The 19-year-old Sharma wrecked Sri Lanka's top order with two quick wickets in a sharp opening spell before returning to break a stubborn partnership in his second spell.

Sri Lanka were on the backfoot following Sharma's double-strike before collapsing against spin late in the day. The hosts lost their last five wickets for just six runs, with Harbhajan taking three and Kumble two.

The hosts began the chase on a disastrous note as they lost three wickets for a meagre 10 runs in the opening four overs, with Sharma taking two and left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan one.

India's spinners were expected to call the shots on a wearing track but the tourists seized the advantage through their fast bowlers as Sharma unsettled the batsmen with his pace and bounce and Zaheer with his movement.

Thilan Samaraweera (67 not out) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (38) alone defied the Indian pace-spin combination with a 76-run stand for the fifth wicket.

Sharma broke the stand immediately after the tea-break when he had Dilshan caught by wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik. Harbhajan had Prasanna Jayawardene caught by Sourav Ganguly, who took a well-judged catch at square-leg.

Sri Lanka were in deep trouble after losing Kumar Sangakkara (one) and in-form skipper Mahela Jayawardene (five), who were known for playing long innings.

Sharma, who removed Malinda Warnapura with his third ball, got the big wicket when he had Jayawardene caught by Rahul Dravid at gully. Jayawardene scored a century in the opening Test and 86 in the first innings here.

Zaheer struck in his second over when he dismissed Sangakkara, beaten by the movement to be caught by Venkatsai Laxman at second slip.

Michael Vandort was dropped before he had opened his account when Dravid failed to latch on to a high catch at third slip in Zaheer's opening over.

The Sri Lankan batsman was on six when he offered another chance, this time Dravid holding the catch but off a Zaheer no-ball. His uncomfortable stay at the crease ended when he fell leg-before in Harbhajan's opening over.

India earlier faltered against Sri Lankan spinners Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan as they were bowled out for 269 after resuming at 200-4. They lost their last five wickets for 17 runs in a dramatic collapse.

Unorthodox spinner Mendis, who took six wickets in the first innings, finished with 4-92 to complete a maiden 10-wicket haul in only his second Test.

Muralitharan took two of the six wickets that fell in the morning to finish with 3-107.

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