Colombo's flat track cheats batsmen and fans of a true Test

Sri Lanka 642-4 dec India 95-0
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The Independent Online

After a week that saw Test cricket at its best, here was a reminder of why interest in the sub-continent has dwindled. Sri Lanka declared on 642 for four in the second Test in Colombo yesterday before India reached 95 without loss at stumps on day two. Who'd be a bowler?

Virender Sehwag's half-century was the linchpin of his side's reply to Sri Lanka's huge total. By the end, Sehwag was unbeaten on 64, with Murali Vijay on 22. On a lifeless SSC pitch, they will hope to fill their boots today.

Pragyan Ojha, the Indian left-arm spinner, believes they will do just that. "It's a very good wicket to bat on," Ojha said. "You have seen it for the last two days. Once you're set, you can just bat on. These guys [the Sri Lankan batsmen] have showed that as long as you can avoid silly mistakes, you're going to get a good score.

"The way things are going, I don't think our batsmen will have any problem. The wicket is rock-solid, and I just hope that our guys bat on and on."

Kumar Sangakkara's 219, backed by Mahela Jayawardene's 174 and Thilan Samaraweera's 76, helped the hosts to their commanding position, and they eventually declared with 20 overs remaining in the day.

Sehwag looked in bright form right from the start of India's innings, and he picked out paceman Dammika Prasad for special treatment, carting three boundaries in the third over to signal his intentions. Debutant spinner Suraj Randiv had a less than memorable start to his Test career, smashed for two boundaries by Sehwag in his first over. Sehwag reached a run-a-ball fifty in typical style – with a boundary off Dilhara Fernando – as India held their nerve to safely negotiate the final few overs of the day.

Earlier, having resumed their first innings at 312 for two, Sangakkara's double century helped the hosts pile on the runs. Sangakkara, who picked up from his overnight score of 130, showed no signs of slowing early on, cracking consecutive boundaries from the first two deliveries of the day.

Three successive boundaries off Abhimanyu Mithun took Sangakkara to 150, while, at the other end, Jayawardene prodded away patiently.

Sangakkara's seventh Test double hundred came with a four past third man, but his assault on the India bowling finally came to an end four overs into the second session. Part-time spinner Sehwag found the outside edge – caught by Rahul Dravid at first slip – but Jayawardene and new batsman Samaraweera batted solidly to steer the total toward 600.

A quick two runs off Harbhajan Singh secured a 28th Test century for Jayawardene, while Samaraweera took 89 deliveries to reach his 22nd fifty – smashing seven boundaries along the way. Resuming after tea at 587 for three, Jayawardene and Samaraweera looked content on their patient approach toward a massive total.

Sri Lanka seemed set to cross the 650-mark but the dismissal of Jayawardene, caught at short mid-wicket off the bowling of Harbhajan, prompted the declaration.