Samaraweera leads Sri Lanka fightback

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The Independent Online

Thilan Samaraweera (78 not out) led the Sri Lanka revival in the second innings of the third Test to put the hosts 214 runs ahead of India with two wickets in hand.

Samaraweera, who hit six boundaries in his 119-ball innings, and spinner Ajantha Mendis (45no) added 100 useful runs in an unbroken ninth-wicket partnership, defying the rampaging India spinners for the entire afternoon session after the middle order succumbed to Pragyan Ojha (three for 80), Amit Mishra (two for 41) and Virender Sehwag (three for 50) - without much resistance.

But India, trailing 1-0 in the three-Test series, lost their way in the second session in the face of some intelligent batting by first-innings centurion Samaraweera and Mendis, who helped Sri Lanka to come back strongly and reach tea on 225 for eight, after being reduced to 125 for eight at one stage.

Earlier, resuming on 45 for two after conceding a slender 11-run lead in the first innings, Sri Lanka suffered an early triple blow when Ojha trapped nightwatchman Suraj Randiv (six) leg before and followed it up with the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene (five), and skipper Kumar Sangakkara (28).

Jayawardene departed after misjudging a turning ball and edging it straight to Rahul Dravid at first slip, while Sangakkara (28), also threw his wicket away attempting to pull a short delivery to the waiting backward square-leg fielder Suresh Raina.

That brought Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews to the crease but Mishra, who managed only one wicket in the first innings, got in on the action soon after.

Mathews (five) hit a low full toss straight to Sachin Tendulkar at short mid-wicket while Prasanna Jayawardene (0) fell lbw next ball to leave Sri Lanka 87 for seven.

The leg-spinner was denied a hat-trick, however, when Lasith Malinga kept out a delivery that was too full.

Samaraweera and Malinga took Sri Lanka past the 100-run mark, and the eighth-wicket stand (38 runs) raised hopes of setting a challenging target for India to chase in the second innings.

However, Virender Sehwag, who had scalped both openers yesterday, got the breakthrough as he trapped Malinga lbw for 15.

Ajantha Mendis joined Samaraweera, who scored an unbeaten 137 in the first innings, in the middle and the ninth-wicket pair defied the Indian attack until lunch.

Samaraweera reached his half-century with a boundary off Sehwag and applied himself well, scoring at a brisk pace, as Mendis gave him good support and went past his best ever Test score of 27 runs, which also came against India.

The ninth-wicket stand between Samaraweera and Mendis gave the home team their biggest partnership of the second innings, with Samaraweera also involved in the second best with Malinga.

A cross-batted heave by Malinga brought the first six of the innings and took Sri Lanka past the 200-run mark, much to the frustration of the India bowlers.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni tried all the options available for him in the bowling department but the duo moved from strength to strength, bringing up the 100-run partnership in 192 balls.