Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

India bury SL under runs

India virtually knocked Sri Lanka out of the third and final Test and the series on Tuesday after a seven-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh and a blistering half-century from Yuvraj Singh.

The hosts were 287-9 in their second innings at stumps on the third day for an overall lead of 479 -- meaning Sri Lanka must chase the highest-ever total in the fourth innings to win a Test.

Only three teams -- the West Indies (418-7 v Australia in 2003), India (406-4 v the West Indies in 1976) and Australia (404-3 v England in 1948) -- have successfully chased more than 400 in the fourth innings.

India lead 1-0 in the series following their 188-run victory in the second Test at Delhi. The rain-hit opening Test at Chennai was drawn.

India set the stage for victory when they bundled Sri Lanka out for 206 in reply to their own first-innings 398, thanks to off-spinner Harbhajan's 7-62 -- his 17th haul of five or more wickets in a Test innings.

Left-hander Yuvraj then built on Harbhajan's effort, attacking vigorously to smash an 83-ball 75 with one six and 13 fours.

Sri Lanka grabbed five wickets in the afternoon session and four in the last, but their efforts came too late to improve their position.

Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and leg-spinner Malinga Bandara took three wickets apiece.

India lost Gautam Gambhir (30), Sachin Tendulkar (19), Mohammad Kaif (nine), Venkatsai Laxman (five) and stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag for a duck before being propped up by Yuvraj on a track of variable bounce.

Yuvraj, who failed to score in the first innings, made amends as he applied himself remarkably well and used his feet against the spinners to keep the Sri Lankan attack at bay during his third Test half-century.

Ajit Agarkar (48), Irfan Pathan (27), Anil Kumble (23 not out) and Harbhajan (19 not out) then made merry in pressure-free conditions.

India started poorly when Sehwag slashed the first ball of the innings from Malinga straight to Maharoof at third man and Laxman, who made 104 in the first innings, was caught behind off Maharoof.

Tendulkar and Kaif were trapped leg-before, while Gambhir was caught by wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara while attempting to cut Muralitharan.

Sri Lanka earlier lost five wickets after adding 75 to their overnight total of 131-5, with Harbhajan claiming three scalps and leg-spinner Kumble two in his 100th Test.

Harbhajan had taken four wickets on Monday.

The tourists did manage to avoid the follow-on after middle-order batsman Dilshan's gutsy 65 -- his fifth Test half-century.

Dilshan was the only batsman to defy the Indian spin duo, hitting eight fours in his 109-ball knock before being caught off his gloves by Kaif at short-leg.

Harbhajan ended the innings when he had Malinga caught by close-in fielder Sehwag.