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Why India need to be careful of not falling into old traps heading into the final Test

A look ahead to the third Test.

Can Virat Kohli end the 22-year wait?

India will begin their quest to win their first Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993 at the Sinhalese Sports Club(SSC) in Colombo on Friday when the third and final Test of the series gets underway.

After losing the opening Test in Galle, thanks to a splendid counter-attacking knock from Dinesh Chandimal and a fourth innings collapse on the Day 4, India bounced back excellently in the second Test at the P Sara Oval by producing an all-round performance with bat and ball and in the field as well.

With Kumar Sangakkara retired, many experts have predicted the visitors to win the decider and take the series 2-1. While there is no doubt that India have definitely looked the stronger of the two outfits so far, past results indicate instances when they have lost the plot against Sri Lanka.

1. India vs Sri Lanka Third Test SSC 2001

After being comprehensively beaten by the hosts in the opening Test at Galle, India fought back very well in the second Test at Kandy. The visitors bowled out the Lankans for 274 but couldn't put up a good performance in their first innings with the bat, getting all out for 232.

But a spirited bowling effort from Venkatesh Prasad and Co. restricted the Lankans to 221, leaving India 264 runs away from drawing level in the series. Led by fifties from Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, India got to the score with 7 wickets in hand.

In the third and final Test, the Indian batting line-up once again failed to put up a big total, as they were shot out for 234 in 81.4 overs on the opening day. Led by hundreds from Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Hashan Tillakaratne and Thilan Samaraweera, the hosts put up a mammoth 610 for 6 declared which put them firmly on the driver's seat.

Led by a three-wicket haul from Muttiah Muralitharan and a couple of unnecessary run-outs on the part of the Indians, the Sri Lankans clinched the match by an innings and 77 runs to win the series 2-1.

2. India vs Sri Lanka Third Test P Sara Oval 2008

India got their tour of Sri Lanka off to the worst possible start losing the first Test by an innings and 239 runs to the hosts, thanks to a splendid effort from Muralitharan and the new kid on the block, Ajanta Mendis.

In the second Test, the visitors fought back brilliantly, first courtesy a superlative double-hundred from Virender Sehwag and then a 10-wicket haul from Harbhajan Singh to bowl Sri Lanka out twice and make it 1-1.

In the deciding Test, the Indian batting failed to make the most of Anil Kumble's decision to bat first, losing wickets at regular intervals to get bowled out for 249 on the first day.

The hosts, courtesy a 144 from Sangakkara made 396 runs in their first innings even as Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble picked up three wickets apiece.

In reply, only Dravid and VVS  Laxman recorded fifties for India in their second innings as the rest of the top and middle order crumbled to leave Sri Lanka a target of 122 runs to chase in the fourth innings which they did so with 8 wickets in hand.

Kohli must not allow complacency to creep in

While from the above two examples it can be said that the Sri Lankan team in both cases were much stronger than the one India are up against in the on-going series, the fact remains that India haven’t been able to pull their best game out on two successive occasions on two separate instances in the emerald island.

Even as there is no doubt that this young batting line-up is by a distance better than the Sri Lankan batting line-up, there is no denying the fact that it was the very same India batting unit that had failed to score 176 in the fourth innings of the Galle Test.

The Indian bowlers have also looked good in this series so far, but there are several examples from the past that show they are prone to getting inconsistent and losing their way.

It will be very interesting to see how Virat Kohli helps his side avoid bringing complacency and underestimation of the opponents into their game and how he makes them understand that the job is still far from over.

These and several other key battles lie ahead for this young team and it remains to be seen if they can achieve what no other Indian side have been able to in over 2 decades and further confirm to everybody that this indeed is a dawn of a new era.

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