| Murali took seven wickets for 100 runs
New Delhi: If Sachin Tendulkar comes calling the shots, can Muttiah Muralidharan be left far behind'
The champions have an ego which does not permit them to live in the shadow of others. If Day I of the second Test at the Kotla had to enter the history books for Sachin’s record-breaking 35th century, Muralidharan’s reply on Sunday was a mesmerising spell of 64 balls, in which he completely shattered the pride of Team India batting.
As the Sri Lankan sorcerer cast his charm through a combination of off-breaks and doosras, India ' having resumed the innings at 245 for three ' dramatically collapsed to 290 in just 21 overs.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni ' the new batting explosion ' was one of the off-spinner’s five wickets in the morning (and seven for 100 in the first innings), but the way the wicketkeeper was nodding in disbelief on his return to the dressing room, summed up the mystery that was Muralidharan. The ball pitched on the leg and Dhoni tried to present his full blade of the bat against it. It spun the other way round and disturbed his off-stump. Amazing.
This was enough to ignite the ego in Anil Kumble, another champion. He took over the stage once Muralidharan left it to a standing ovation. Just when Sri Lanka started breathing easy, with both captain Maravan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene looking set for a big partnership, the leggie struck on his happy hunting ground. During the spell ' spanning just half-an-hour, but so reminiscent of his 10-wicket haul in Pakistan’s second innings here six years ago ' he brought the opponents’ advantage, gained on the back of Muralidharan, to neutrality.
Kumble ripped apart Sri Lanka middle-order with four for 54, capping another poor light-curtailed day, which saw the fall of 13 wickets and the advantage pinging back and forth every now and then. The visitors ended the second day at 198 for six, still 92 runs behind India’s first-innings total.
No doubt, after the Chennai mismatch, the battle for the Videocon Cup has already assumed the contours of a riveting contest, by pitting two of the world’s greatest spinners against each other.
Following the unexpected batting collapse, Irfan Pathan provided India the much-needed breakthroughs when he dismissed Avishka Gunawardene and Kumar Sangakkara in back-to-back overs. That left Atapattu and Jayawardene to pilot the recovery on a pitch which offered low bounce and demanded batting with caution. They put on a 113 runs for the third wicket and one of its key features was their judicious shot selection.
The wait for another breakthrough was slowly taking shape of a desperation as Rahul Dravid tried out a number of options, making the bowlers change ends and even bringing Sachin in the attack (in the 58th over). Sourav Ganguly’s utility as a bowler was not called for, but the former captain was involved in every action ' discussing strategies with Dravid and offering tips to the Ajit Agarkars and the Pathans.
It eventually came during Kumble’s third spell of the day with devastating effect. Jayawardene (60) missed a typical Kumble straighter while trying to sweep ' in the process, becoming the bowler’s 50th Sri Lankan victim.
An over later, Thilan Samaraweera had no clue to a ripping leg-break and the very next ball, Kumble’s flipper found Tillekeratne Dilshan plumb in front of the wicket. Jehan Mubarak (batting on 10) denied him the hattrick, but Kumble removed the dangerman in what eventually turned out to be the last ball of the day.
It was a faster one and as Atapattu played forward, it took the edge off his bat and went to forward short leg for Gautam Gambhir to hold on to a stunner.
Kumble’s third spell returned him the figures of 11.3-4-18-4 and it must have assuaged the humiliation Muralidharan inflicted on his teammates earlier in the day.
The Sri Lankan had started the morning by delivering a wrong ’un, which spoiled the party for Sourav (40). The left-hander offered no shot to it, only to see Simon Taufel raising his index finger.
Next in Muralidharan’s line of fire was Sachin. The Master Blaster (109 runs off 196 balls, 4x14, 6x1) tried to paddle-sweep the offie in vain, though the ball appeared to have missed his leg-stump. Pathan and Harbhajan Singh didn’t have any clue to his magic while Yuvraj Singh and Kumble fell to Malinga Bandara, completing the collapse in just one-and-half-an-hour.