India’s batting pride at stake in Galle

Galle, July 29:

India’s batting reputation will be at stake when they attempt to solve Sri Lanka’s spin puzzle in the second Test starting on Thursday.

The tourists collapsed twice in the opening match of the three-Test series in Colombo, losing by an innings and 239 runs on Saturday. Sri Lankan spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mandis did the damage, sharing 19 wickets. Muralithan’s wizardry has always shone especially bright at the Galle International Stadium, where he has taken 91 of his world-record 746 wickets in 12 Tests.

This time out there will be no respite for the visitors as he has found an able partner in Mendis, an unorthodox spinner. Mendis made an impressive

debut in Colombo, grabbing eight wickets, and the pair are expected to make merry again.

“The pitch here is basically spin-friendly,” said curator and former Sri Lankan bowler Jayananda Warnaweera. “Murali has always bowled well here and I think Mendis will also succeed because he has variations. It has always been a lucky ground for Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lanka have lost just one of their last nine Tests at Galle since July 2000, the lone defeat coming against Australia four years ago.

While India have talented batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Venkatsai Laxman, but failed to match Sri Lanka’s batting prowess in the first match.

Four Sri Lankan batsmen — skipper Mahela Jayawardene, Malinda Warnapura, Thilan Samaraweera and Tillakaratne Dilshan — scored centuries, while Laxman was India’s top-scorer with 56.

Opener Gautam Gambhir said India were confident of putting in an improved batting performance in the second Test. “We will look to be more positive against Mendis and Murali as both of them are quality spinners. But we are going to put up a much better show as the guys are really positive,” he said.

Muralitharan troubled the Indian batsmen in the lone Test played between the two countries at Galle, taking eight wickets to fashion his team’s 10-wicket win in 2001. He has bagged five or more wickets in a Test innings 10 times here and 10 or more in a match on four occasions, his best being 13-171 against South Africa eight years ago.

No Test was held at this venue for nearly three years after it was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Test cricket resumed in 2007 with a visit from England.