India fight back to save Test after Lankan run feast

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> In reply to Sri Lanka's first innings lead of 334 runs, India were 190/2 at the close of the fourth's day play in Ahmedabad.

Updated: November 19, 2009 11:49 IST
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India fought back gallantly in their bid to save the first cricket Test but were still not completely out of danger after Sri Lanka piled up the agony on the hosts with a record-breaking run deluge here on Thursday.

After being buried by a massive 334-run first innings lead mainly built around a world record sixth wicket partnership between Mahela Jayawardene (275) and Prasanna Jayawardene (154 not out), the Indians reached 190 for two in their second innings at stumps on the penultimate day, still trailing by 144 runs.

The hosts still have a daunting task to prevent the Lankans from recording their first Test triumph on Indian soil as they have to bat out the entire last day on a Motera track which was expected to deteriorate and assist the spinners.

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Also Read:Match Report: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
Jayawardenes break 72-year-old world record

But the Indians have an experienced batting line up and should fancy their chances of saving the match which has turned out to be a nightmare for the bowlers.

Gautam Gambhir (74) and night watchman Amit Mishra (12) were at the crease at stumps on a day which saw Mahela and Prasanna breaking the 72-year-old world record for the highest sixth-wicket partnership in Tests by putting on a 351-run stand.

The home team first lost Virender Sehwag (51) and then Rahul Dravid (38) was distincly unlucky to get a dubious leg before decision at the fag end of the day.

The hosts started off confidently with Sehwag and Gambhir putting on 81 runs before spinner Rangana Harath provided the breakthrough for the visitors.

Sehwag perished to a rather injudicious stroke and offered a simple catch to Angelo Mathews and the Indians suffered a big jolt towards the end of the day when Dravid was adjudged leg before to Welegedara delivery which television replays showed would have missed the leg stump.

Resuming at the overnight score of 591 for five, the Sri Lankas carried on from where they had left and ensured that a number of batting records fell by the wayside.

The sixth wicket partnership between the two Jayawardenes sunk the 72-year-old record set by Jack Fingleton and Donald Bradman for Australia against England in the last Ashes series held before World War II, in 1936-37, at Melbourne.

Mahela, who struck 27 fours a six in his stupendous and energy-sapping knock fell to the 435th ball he faced, bowled by a struggling Amit Mishra.

Mahela, who added eight runs to his lunchtime score and also overtook Pakistan's Younus Khan's 267 made at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in March, 2005 to become the highest individual scorer from a visiting team in India, departed in the third over of the post-lunch session.

But the Lankans continued to pile on the agony for India for half an hour more before declaring their innings when Dammika Prasad became Harbhajan Singh's second victim, caught at deep mid-wicket by Mishra.

Prasanna remained unbeaten on 154 off 314 balls with eleven fours to his credit.

Sri Lanka's mammoth lead also left the hosts with the monumental task of batting out for a minimum of 135 overs and for more than four and a half sessions, to save the opening match in the three-Test contest.

The 32-year-old Mahela also set a slew of records during his marathon innings. He became the joint highest individual scorer against India in this country and the fourth to compile a 250-plus knock in the latter's backyard and also crossed the 9000-run milestone.

Resuming at his overnight 204, the elegant Mahela continued and Prasanna who notched his second Test century, continued to pile frustrate the Indians and thereby surged to the sixth-highest Test tally ever, the list being led by their own world record tally of 952 for six declared in Colombo 12 years ago.

The Lanka reply was also an apt rejoinder to India's record score of 676 for seven scored against them at Kanpur in 1986. The previous best total by any visiting team in India was 652 for seven declared by England in January, 1985.

All the four frontline Indian bowlers gave away over 100 runs each, with Zaheer Khan being the most economical and impressive with 2 for 109.

The spinners were far from impressive. While Harbhajan Singh gave away 189 runs for his two wickets, hardly looking menacing, leggie Mishra was even more pathetic and went wicket less after conceding 203 runs in a marathon stint of 56 overs.

In the morning, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's ploy of taking the third new ball immediately after play started on Thursday did not pay dividends as the two Jayawardenes easily saw off the new ball duo of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

The duo's massive and morale-destroying partnership reached the 300-mark in 510 balls before Mahela completed his 250 with a single off the totally non-penetrative Harbhajan Singh in 400 balls. Later he became the ninth batsman in the world to reach 9000 runs.

Spinners Harbhajan and Amit Mishra who hardly made any impression gave away over 370 runs for a lone wicket in combination.

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