| Anil Kumble at the Kotla on Wednesday. (AFP)
New Delhi: Anil Kumble and the Kotla seem to be made for each other. His long love-affair with the ground got confirmed in the second Test versus Sri Lanka.
The leg-spinner spun a web around the Lankans and Team India completed the formalities on Wednesday afternoon. The 188-run win gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the three-match series for the Videocon Cup.
Kumble finished with 10 for 157 in the match ' his eighth 10-wicket haul in Tests ' to engineer a memorable victory in a match in which Sachin Tendulkar got his world record 35th century. Kumble now has 48 scalps in five Tests at the Kotla. Quite an amazing statistic. The visitors started Day V on 123 for five, and it remained to be seen how long they could hold back the inevitable.
Ajit Agarkar provided the hosts the early breakthrough, dismissing Jehan Mubarak, but Tillekeratne Dilshan joined overnight batsman Mahela Jayawardene to stitch a sound partnership for the seventh wicket. They added 67 runs and, more importantly, smothered Kumble’s sting.
But who could deny destiny’s child of the Kotla' He went through the defence of an overambitious Dilshan at the stroke of lunch and expedited Team India’s passage to their sixth victory on the trot at the ground.
Harbhajan Singh, whose stump-to-stump bowling looked more suited to the ODI variety, suddenly realised he had more Test weapons. The moment he started using those, Sri Lanka gave up the fight.
The off-spinner first bemused Jayawardene with teasing flight, Gautam Gambhir taking an easy catch at forward short-leg. Next over, it was Kumble’s turn to rejoin the party. Chaminda Vaas tried to pull him with all his power, but the ball kept low and Harbhajan took the catch at mid-wicket.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had the satisfaction of completing the final action when last batsman Muttiah Muralidharan top-edged a Harbhajan delivery. Within 42 minutes after lunch, it was all over for Sri Lanka.
If it's a collective performance for India, their rivals' cause, on the other hand, was dented by a thigh sprain to Muralidharan. It was first noticed when the off-spinner came out to bat with a runner. The Sri Lankan captain later revealed, "it's nothing serious". But Muralidharan's bowling in India's second innings - one wicket for 118 runs in 38 overs - must say something else.
Coach Tom Moody also need to have a relook at his tail. Even if it was a lost cause, most batsmen down the order looked happy playing ambitious shots, when grafting was a more sensible ploy.
"We lost the match in two small periods. It was 45 minutes of madness at the end of Day II and then again in the second innings (on Tuesday evening) we lost quick wickets going into the fifth day," Moody later said. He was right.
Team India now will go to Ahmedabad with the much-needed confidence after the Chennai disappointment, but the celebration was largely overshadowed by the news that Sourav Ganguly is no more part of Team India.
The former captain contributed 40 and 39, and shared a crucial partnership of 81 with Yuvraj Singh in the second innings, that virtually blocked all escape routes for Sri Lanka. More than that, he made a strong statement by getting involved in on-field discussions, cheering the bowlers and providing tips to Dravid.
Alas, it wasn’t enough to get the backing of the powers-that-be.