SK Elite: Virender Sehwag's 201 not out against Sri Lanka at Galle
The test series between India and Sri Lanka in 2008 was one of the toughest away tours that the Indians went to in the recent past. Sri Lanka won the series 2-1 and it was Ajantha Mendis’s mystery bowling and the DRS, making its debut, which were the talking points of this tournament.
Mendis and Muralitharan wrecked havoc against India's top order as the famed batting line-up collapsed innings after innings.
India lost the first test at SSC Colombo by an inning and 239 runs and it was the manner of that defeat which shook the Indian dressing room. Mendis spun his web and caught Indian batters in it one after the other.
They needed a saviour after that humbling to give the team an inspiration and some hope of a fightback in the second test.
Enter Virender Sehwag.
The Sultan of Multan was known for his no nonsense approach to the game and always batted on his own terms. Sehwag had to give India a brilliant start in the second test in Galle and a solid platform to build upon. He not only did that but scored a magnificent double century which guided his team to a score of 329 in the first innings.
This knock of 201* against Sri Lanka was probably Sehwag's best performance in a white shirt.
The reason for this knock being his best ever is because of the immense maturity that was shown by the otherwise one-dimensional batsman. Sehwag played with grace against the spinners and took risk only when the ball was pitched in his hitting area.
When on one side the wickets were tumbling against the might of Mendis, Sehwag was going at his own pace and smashing the mystery spinner all over the park.
India won the toss and elected to bat first. Sri Lanka had a clear plan against Sehwag – put a fielder deep on the leg side from the first over itself and welcome him with some short stuff. Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara tried bowling according to the plan but the Nawab of Najafgarh was up to the task and dispatched everything that was pitched short.
Sehwag brought up his half century in quick time and then welcomed Muttiah Muralitharan with three boundaries in his first over. India were off to a flyer as Sehwag and Gambhir brought up a fine 150+ runs stand for the first wicket. But then calamity struck as the Lankan spinners started creating havoc.
In the space of few overs, India lost four wickets and were staring at yet another collapse against the might of Mendis.
Amidst all this, Sehwag was at his nonchalant best. He then formed a solid partnership with VVS Laxman for the fifth wicket and steered India to a decent score. After a middle order collapse, the Lankan bowlers were right on top and this is the period where Sehwag showed immense maturity.
In the last session of day 1, the opener brought up his century and then played a type of game which was never associated with his reputation. He soaked all the pressure from the spinners and gave Laxman a brilliant hand in building his innings.
Day 2 gave us a glimpse of the Sehwag that we knew all these years. He targeted the spinners and scored runs all round the park.
Against Muralitharan, Sehwag showed that he had done his homework. The spinner came round the wicket against him and kept six fielders on the leg side. But Sehwag always gave himself some room and hit fours on the offside. He played artfully against Murali which frustrated the bowler and forced him to try unnecessary variations with his line and length.
Mendis was proving almost unplayable against the other batsmen but against Sehwag in that innings, the mystery spinner looked like a young nervous bowler bowling for the first time in the nets. Sehwag scored 70 runs in 77 balls against Mendis which included three huge sixes.
He scored a further 58 runs against Murali which reflected the certainty with which he faced the dangerous Lankan spinners.
Sehwag got to his double century with a nudge on the leg side for a single with Ishant Sharma, the number 11 batsman on the other side. It was Viru's 5th score of 200 or more in test cricket.
India went on to win that game by a huge margin of 170 runs as Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh helped them to a famous test win. The match took several turns in the course of five days but Bhajji's magic with the ball in both the innings helped India level the series in a resounding fashion.
But the true architect of this victory was the double centurion Virender Sehwag who knew that his team needed him to play a sensible knock rather than a swashbuckling one. He understood this and played probably the best innings of his successful test career.