5 memorable Tests India played in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan line-up, especially their batting, assumes a menacing form on home soil. Many a batting records have broken when SL has played against India on these home turfs. Despite SL’s stronghold in their fortress, India has also come back strongly in more games than one, to snatch some great victories. While on one side, SL has displayed their dominance by achieving world record batting scores and often notching up daunting totals in most matches, India has also unleashed their lethal combo of bat and ball time and again to achieve some decisive wins.With the SL-India Test series about to commence in a few days, we reminisce some of the memorable Test matches played between these two sides in the island nation.
#5 2010 - A battle of the bats
The Sri Lankan batting line-up, famous for their consistency in Tests, did not fail this time too. Facing India in the second match of the 2010 Test series at Colombo, SL won the toss and naturally chose to bat.
The SL top order was at its phenomenal best, with Dilshan hitting a half century, Paranavitana hitting a century and Sangakkara hitting a double century. SL batted through almost 2 days and brought their score to a solid 642-4, aided by Jayawardene’s brilliant 174. At this point, they chose to declare, wanting to coax a result out of this match,
The usually timid Indian batting line-up when it comes to batting second, surprisingly was full of vigour in this Test. For the first time in many years, India equalled and even bettered a mammoth total posted by SL in the first innings. Sehwag’s blistering 101-ball 99 set the platform for India, upon which Tendulkar compiled a beautifully structured innings and reached the double ton mark.
Giving solid support to him at the other end was Suresh Raina, who for his part, crafted a fine century to his name. India thus batted through till the morning of the 5th day, setting up a gigantic total of 707. The run-fest continued as both teams played out a high-scoring draw.
The sheer grit of batsmen in both camps and their success as a batting unit were the highlights of the game. This was yet another run-rich entertainer on a pitch that offered little to the bowlers, that would be solely remembered for the milestones reached by the batsmen.
#4 2008 - A Test of resilience
India suffered their third-worst defeat in Tests in the first match against Sri Lanka in the series held at Colombo, where they were thrashed by an innings and 239 runs. Looking to savour some pride and nullify the loss, India entered the 2nd match at Galle with a ferocity to win.
The Indian openers Gambhir and Sehwag piled on 167 runs for the first wicket, before Gambhir departed after a well-made half century. Sehwag carried forward his attack to the opposition by annihilating the bowlers. He scored a stunning 201 off just 231 balls, thus helping India reach 329 in the first innings.
The Lankan top and middle order were consistent yet again, and SL reached a comfortable 250-5, courtesy half centuries from Warnapura, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. But the tail was quickly done away with by the Indian spinners, as SL were bundled out for 292. Harbhajan shone in the Indian camp with 6 wickets to his name.
With the pitch continuing to assist spinners on the 3rd day, India added 200 more to their lead. But they were quickly bundled out for 269 on the next day. Chasing 307 to win with a day and a half to go, SL lost wickets in quick succession, notwithstanding the attack of the pace duo – Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.
The much-acclaimed spin pair of Harbhajan and Kumble then came on to tighten the strings and cleaned up the tail to fetch India an astounding 170-run win with a day to spare. This victory gave a massive boost to India after their lacklustre performance in the first Test.
India thus levelled the 3-match series 1-1 with one more match to go (which they eventually lost). Despite losing the series 1-2, this win is definitely regarded as one of India’s greatest wins against SL.
#3 2001 - The curse of Kandy for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have always seemed to face a turn of tides against them at Kandy. The Test match against India in 2001 was yet another example of the same. Put to bat first, the Lankans lost the first wicket cheaply, when Jayasuriya ran himself out just 5 overs into the game, looking to get a non-existent second run.
Yet, SL recovered well from the early blow to toughen up their score. But the Kandy pitch offered plenty to pacers, by virtue of which SL were reduced to 274-9 at the end of Day 1.
Not adding any more to their kitty, SL’s 10th wicket fell at the start of the 2nd day. But the Indian batting line-up did not fare better than their Lankan counterparts, as Chaminda Vaas ripped through the wickets, thereby helping SL take an all-important 42-run lead. After the commencement of the second innings, the tables turned again, as the Indian pace duo of Venkatesh Prasad and Zaheer Khan crushed SL, claiming 9 wickets between them. This left the hosts reeling at 221, setting India a challenging target of 264 on that pitch.
India had more than 2 days left to chase the total leisurely while SL were pressurized to take wickets. Their pace attack went out of steam on Day 4, as India comfortably cruised to victory by 7 wickets with a day to spare, courtesy a gritty 98* from Sourav Ganguly. He was later adjudged the Man of the Match.
With this thumping win, India managed to level the 3-match series 1-1 after the hosts registered a massive 10-wicket win in the first match held at Galle. This match would most certainly be remembered by many, given the fluctuating fortunes and the knife-edge finish, that offered rich entertainment overall.
#2 1997 - Sri Lanka\'s record total
Test matches are generally tilted towards the team batting first, since the pitches deteriorate as the days progress. One such Test that started on a similar note was the Sri Lanka vs India match held at Colombo from Aug 2, 1997.
It was raining centuries at the Premadasa stadium after India won the toss and chose to bat. Three of the Indian batsmen reached triple figures – Sidhu, Tendulkar and Azharuddin. Further adding to their tons, Dravid played along with a fine half century, which put India in the driver’s seat with a comfortable score of 537 in the first innings.
With more than 3 days to go in the Test, SL first looked to avoid the follow-on. After losing their first wicket cheaply towards the end of Day 2, Jayasuriya and Mahanama started cautiously on the third day. Both displayed a flamboyant show with the bat, registering centuries and batted through the day to take their team from 39-1 to 322-1.
Their assault on the Indian bowling continued through the 4th day, as the pair further added another 265 runs to take SL to a stunning 587-1 on close of play on the penultimate day. During the course of this record-breaking partnership, Jayasuriya registered his first and only triple century and Mahanama joined the double century club.
A short while after the start of the 5th day’s play, India finally got some respite with the wickets of Mahanama and Jayasuriya in quick succession. But the Lankan assault continued, as Aravinda de Silva, Ranatunga and Jayawardene joined the party.
While de Silva helped himself to a century, the latter two scored fine half-centuries as SL’s team total soared past 900. With the Test showing no indication of a result, the play was called off prematurely when SL’s total was at 952-6. It was registered as the highest-ever team total in Test history, beating the previous best of 903-7 by England.
Jayasuriya and Mahanama’s partnership of 576 runs was the longest stand in Test history. Overall, a run-rich match on a dead pitch saw the Lankans steamroll over all the record books to etch their names. Despite not ending with a result, this was definitely one of the most memorable Tests played by both the nations.
#1 1993 - The Test that won India the series
Since beating England at Leeds in 1986, India played 26 overseas Tests and were yet to taste another victory. India’s tour of Sri Lanka in 1993 consisted of 3 Test matches, out of which the first one ended in a draw. Playing their second match at Colombo, India overshadowed Lanka in the first innings, posting an imposing 366, courtesy a fine century by Vinod Kambli. Sri Lanka were all set for the challenge, holding a strong position of 200-4 at the end of day 2. But Kumble spun his magic and reduced SL to 254, thereby giving India a decisive lead of 112.
The Indian openers Prabhakar and Sidhu added a further 171 to it in the second innings, before Prabhakar fell just 5 short of a century. Sidhu made a fine century, and India’s lead was further boosted with Tendulkar’s ton. Declaring at 359-4, India set SL a mammoth target of 472 runs.
SL lost 2 quick wickets in the chase. Resuming Day 5 at 86-2 with Aravinda de Silva at the crease, Sri Lanka were fighting it out for a draw. But Prabhakar and Kumble wrecked havoc with the famous Lankan batting line-up, claiming 3 wickets each.
Aravinda de Silva displayed a patient innings of 93, even as wickets tumbled at the other end. Finally, India reduced SL to a paltry 236, winning the match by a whopping 235 runs. India thus achieved their first Test victory on Lankan soil and gained an unassailable 1-0 lead in the series. The third and final match of the series ended in a draw, which led India to their first Test series win in Sri Lanka. This remains the only Test series triumph of India in Sri Lanka till date.