Jayasuriya cashes in on conditions

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The Independent Online
India 537-8 dec Sri Lanka 322-1

It was Sri Lanka's turn to enjoy the sweets of the perfect pitch and Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama batted through the entire third day of the opening Test against India yesterday.

By the time it was over, they had added 283 for the second wicket, the most for any wicket in the 75 Tests Sri Lanka have played since their elevation to top status in 1982, and the total was an imposing 322 for 1. Even so they were still behind Indian's first innings by 215.

The left-handed Jayasuriya followed his 3 for 45 with his left-arm spin in India's prolonged occupation over the first two days with his third and highest Test hundred to be 175 at close. Mahanama, the tall, correct right-hander, was 115, his fourth hundred. Neither gave a chance and neither looked like getting out throughout another sunny, hot six and a quarter hours against India's spin-based attack.

Jayasuriya was the more assured, striking 20 fours, most with cuts and sweeps in an unblemished display. The swashbuckling six-hitter of the one-day game was transformed into the textbook Test opener and did not raise one ball off the ground throughout his long vigil. Only fatigue, understandable since he was on the field from the very first ball, slowed his progress and he intermittently ate bananas, drank water and had his tiring forearms massaged by the team's physiotherapist.

Mahanama had one or two anxious moments, none more so than when umpire Steve Randell refused a justifiable claim for lbw off the new, tall left- arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni when he was 45. There were also a couple of narrow shaves, but the bowlers were having no joy.

The quality of the pitch once more brought into question the future of Test cricket in this part of the world. Over the first two days, Sidhu, Tendulker and Azharuddin gathered hundreds for India with as much ease as Jayasuriya and Mahanama did and the one-sided contest had been condemned to a meaningless draw even before it was half-way through. No wonder no more than 1,500 spectators have turned up at the Premadasa Stadium for any of the days while 35,000 crammed the same venue less than two weeks ago to watch Sri Lanka thrash India in the Pepsi Asia Cup one-day final.

INDIA - First innings: 537 for 8 dec

SRI LANKA - First innings

S Jayasuriya not out 175

M Atapattu c Mongia b Kulkarni 26

R Mahanama not out 115

Extras (lb1, b1, nb4) 6

Total (for 1) 322

Fall: 1-39

Bowling: V Prasad 16-1-50-0; A Kuruvilla 7-2-24-0(nb1); R Chauhan 26- 3-86-0 (nb1); A Kumble 28-3-83-0 (nb2); N Kulkarni 20-3-57-1; S Ganguly 2-0-18-0; S Tendulkar 1-0-2-0.

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