Gambhir, Sachin steer India to a dignified draw

The Ahmedabad Test may have ended in a draw but if there was one winner it had to be the pitch.

The genius of Sachin Tendulkar (100*), the resolve of Gautam Gambhir (114) and the elegance of VVS Laxman (51) beautifully came together to crush Sri Lanka’s dream of registering their first Test victory on the Indian soil. For the game that saw a staggering 1,598 runs being scored for the loss of only 21 wickets – highest in a match played in India – it had to end in a draw.

In a game which saw as many as seven batsmen scoring centuries (see the first table below), Mahela Jayawardene stood out for his magical 275 — his first century in India. It also made him Sri Lanka’s highest Test run-getter and the ninth batsmen in the world to score over 9,000 runs.

Quite deservingly he was declared player of the match. He shared a world record 351-run partnership with Prasanna Jayawardena (154) for the sixth wicket, which was probably the most remarkable phase of the match.

The men from the Emerald Isles failed to achieve the desired result even after having a tight stranglehold on the match for most of the sessions. Reason: the Indians fought back hard when it mattered the most.

The world wanted Tendulkar to mark his two decades of extraordinary career with a special knock and he obliged. The master notched up his 43rd Test century to save the match for India and on the way reached the stupendous landmark of 30,000 international runs (see the second table below).

Apart from a brief phase of aggression when he charged down the ground to Muralitharan, Tendulkar was the epitome of caution during his unbeaten knock of 100. The innings was peppered with his signature drives, back-foot punches and crafty sweeps and included 11 boundaries.

 Players
Runs
Balls
4s
6s
S/R
Rahul Dravid (Ind)
177
261
26
1
67.82
MS Dhoni (Ind)
110
159
10
1
69.18
T Dilshan (SL)
112
133
12
0
84.21
Mahela Jayawardene (SL)
275
435
27
1
63.22
Prasanna Jayawardene (SL)
154*
314
11
0
49.04
Gautam Gambhir (Ind)
114
230
13
0
49.57
Sachin Tendulkar (Ind)
100*
211
11
0
47.39

Before the Little Master took over, the foundation of India’s fightback was laid by Gautam Gambhir, who carved out a pugnacious innings of 114 runs. He showed immense maturity while getting to his seventh Test hundred and his sixth in the last eight Tests. Though the innings had no signs of heroics, it sure had its moments of brilliance. The confident drives, the delicate late-cuts and the aggressive charge down the ground against Muralitharan brought up 12 sparkling boundaries in his innings.

 Players
Mts
Runs
Hs
Avg
100
50
SR Tendulkar (Ind)
597
30065
248*
48.33
88
144
RT Ponting (Aus)
483
24057
257
47.92
66
123
BC Lara (WI)
430
22358
400*
46.28
53
111
R Dravid (Ind)
474
21803
270
45.32
39
139
JH Kallis (SA)
436
20974
189*
49.11
47
127

The lunch-break probably wavered Gambhir’s concentration and indiscretion crept into his batting. He charged down the ground against the spin of Herath and holed out to mid-off.

The two centurions were well supported by VVS Laxman, the man who often thrives in the pressure cooker situation. The elegant right-hander once again stood up for his team, as he eased his way to an unbeaten 160-ball 51.

Mathews was the pick of the Lankan bowlers in the first session. He bowled according to the field, maintained a straight line and continued to bowl fuller length. The wicket of Mishra was a testimony to the all-rounder’s disciplined bowling effort. While Muralitharan continued to struggle, bowling flat on the dead track, Herath kept trying different things. He gave the ball a lot more flight, which lured Sehwag and Gambhir into suicidal big shots.

Apart from the first session of the match when the Sri Lankan fast bowlers ran through the Indian top order, the bowlers from both sides had very little to smile about. The spinners in particular, had a forgettable five days, as the batsmen mercilessly feasted on them.

While Amit Mishra went for 203 runs and Harbhajan for 189, it was for the first time in his career that the wily old Muttiah Muralitharan went wicket-less in the second innings of a Test after bowling more than 25 overs.

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