Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis made a mockery of India’s strong batting reputation as Sri Lanka won the opening Test by a record innings and 239 runs yesterday.
Maverick off-spinner Muralitharan finished the match with 11 wickets as India were shot out for 138 in their second innings after conceding a lead of 377 on the fourth day.
He was brilliantly supported by debutant Mendis, an unorthodox spinner with plenty of variation, who took eight wickets in the match to also play a crucial role in his team’s victory with a day to spare.
It was Sri Lanka’s biggest win over India in 27 Tests, the previous being by an innings and 77 runs at the same venue in 2001.
India’s batsmen, always considered better against spin than pace, looked clueless against the Sri Lanka spin duo, who kept striking at regular intervals even on an easy-paced track.
The tourists lost 14 wickets against spin in the day, including four in the first innings.
None of India’s batsmen could read the spin duo as the tourists’ second innings lasted just 45 overs, with man-of-the-match Muralitharan grabbing 6-26 and Mendis 4-60 during their almost unplayable spells.
India were earlier bowled out for 223 in their first innings, in reply to the hosts’ massive 600-6 declared.
India opener Virender Sehwag (13), star batsman Sachin Tendulkar (12) and Rahul Dravid (10) were initially given not out by umpires Mark Benson of England and Billy Doctrove of the West Indies.
But Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene requested the officials to review the decisions under a new experimental rule and they changed their decisions after consulting TV umpire Rudi Koertzen of South Africa.
Sehwag was trapped leg before wicket by Muralitharan, while Tendulkar was caught by a diving Tillakaratne Dilshan at leg-slip off the same bowler after TV replays showed the ball hit pad and bat.
Dravid was caught bat-pad by close-in fielder Malinda Warnapura off Mendis.
India failed to cope with spin for a second successive time in the match, with opener Gautam Gambhir top-scoring with 43.
Venkatsai Laxman, promoted in the batting order following his first-innings 56, contributed 21 this time before being trapped lbw by Mendis, while Gambhir was stumped off Muralitharan after being beaten in the flight.
Muralitharan earlier took 5-84 in the first innings and Mendis 4-72.