Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test at Galle, Day Three: Plays of the days

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Listless Bowling comes to the Party:
For the entire week, one has been hearing about how the Indian bowling would struggle in the absence of Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth and with Harbhajan Singh semi-fit. The first day of the Test match saw a very good example of the same, as the Lankans went on to pile up more than 250 runs for the loss of two wickets. However, things looked very different in the morning on the third day.

Very evidently, some harsh words were spoken to the pace bowlers and both Abhimanyu Mithun and Ishant Sharma bowled a spell like they were possessed by a demon. Both got an early wicket each, and then came back to dismiss another one before lunch and left the Lankans crippled at 322/5.

In the end, the Lankans recovered well to get to 500, but the fast bowlers showed that they were very much a part of the game. Mithun ended with four wickets, whereas had three.

Spinning Struggles:
It was not quite the same for the Indian spinners though, who bowled a total of 58 overs in the innings and yet, failed to pick up a single wicket. The pair of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha was so easily read and dispatched that they conceded 213 runs in those 58 overs. One wonders what made the great Muralitharan say that Harbhajan would be able to break his Test match record (for the record, Murali was at 792 Test wickets and Harbhajan at 355 before the start of this game.)

The Guard of Honour:
By now, the entire cricketing world and beyond, probably, knows that this is going to be the last Test match that  Muralitharan is going to feature in. And the send-off that the Sri Lankans have planned for him is going to the best a Sri Lankan player has ever got in his last game.

But, the most touching moment came when Muralitharan came in to bat. As soon as the eighth Sri Lankan wicket had fallen down, Murali made his way out to centre, and the Indian team collected near the pavilion to afford the great man a guard of honour. All the Indian fielders stood on either side and patted Murali on his back, and the off-spinner soaked in everything with a toothy grin on his face.

The Guard of Honour – Part II:
Yes, there were two of them. The first one was when Muralitharan came on to bat, and this was the second one when the Lankan side had declared the innings closed and were out to take the field. The Sri Lankan fielders huddled together and gave Muralitharan exactly the same treatment that the Indian fielders had given him when he had come out to bat. This time around, it was not only the fielders but also the cameramen and media personnel who accompanied the great man almost to the centre.

Again, Murali just smiled and took in the show of respect.

‘The Great Man’ versus the ‘The Great Man’
It was only the third occasion that the highest wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket was bowling to the highest scorer in Test match cricket, when Muralitharan came on to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar. Over the years, the pair have battled each other on many occasions, and this was expected to be equally exciting, one thought.

But Tendulkar lasted all of 11 deliveries before Muralitharan trapped him LBW off a sweep shot that failed to hit the bat. Tendulkar had been fooled by the length of the delivery and was caught plumb in front. A fitting start to the end of his career.



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