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Best of the Tests at the P. Sara Oval


P_Sara_Oval_Sri_Lanka_Cricket_GroundThe second Test between Sri Lanka and New Zealand is underway at the Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium (PSS), also called the P. Sara Oval. One of four grounds in Colombo to have hosted Tests, it holds great significance for Sri Lanka, as it was the scene of their first Test, against England in 1981-82, as well as their first Test win, against India in 1985. As New Zealand look to draw the series, here is a look back at seven memorable Tests played at the P. Sara Oval.   

Sri Lanka v England, Only Test, 1981-82

Sri Lanka marked their arrival as a Test side, and showed great character in defeat. Captained by Bandula Warnapura, the debutants totalled 218 in the first innings, with Ranjan Madugalle (65) and Arjuna Ranatunga (54) being the chief scorers. Derek Underwood took 5/28 in what would be his last Test. Paceman Asantha de Mel and left-arm spinner Somachandra de Silva shared seven wickets between them in England’s response of 223, even as David Gower defied with 89.

With the match now a second-innings shootout, Roy Dias hit 77 to give Sri Lanka the edge – indeed, they were strongly placed at 167/3 when off-spinner John Emburey, who had earlier dismissed Warnapura, removed Madugalle. What followed was a manic collapse, as Emburey (6/33) sent the score crashing to 175 all out. England lost opener Geoff Cook for a duck in the third over, but Chris Tavare (85) ensured that they achieved the target with seven wickets intact.

Sri Lanka v India, Second Test, 1985

Sri Lanka had come very close to victory in the first Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) – they were 61/4 in pursuit of 123 when the match was drawn. However, they recorded a historic maiden Test win (in their 14th match) 11 days later. Led by Duleep Mendis, Sri Lanka started off solidly, with their first five partnerships reading 74, 95, 60, 99 and 40. Wicketkeeper-opener Amal Silva scored 111, and found key support from Dias (95), Madugalle (54) and Mendis (51).

The Indians fought back through Chetan Sharma (5/118) as the last six wickets fell for 17, limiting Sri Lanka to 385. The pace trio of de Mel, Rumesh Ratnayake (4/76) and Saliya Ahangama (3/59) then rocked the Indian batting, reducing the score to 3/3. Kris Srikkanth (64), Sunil Gavaskar (52) and Mohinder Amarnath (60) repaired the damage, but India could muster only 244. In the second innings, Sri Lanka went at nearly four an over before declaring at 206/3.

Young Aravinda de Silva made 75, while Dias chipped in again with 60*, the two putting on 132 for the fourth wicket. Set a target of 348, India slid from 39/0 to 41/3 on the final morning. They further tumbled to 98/7 before captain Kapil Dev (78) salvaged some pride. Kapil was last out at 198, caught and bowled off Ratnayake (5/49), much to the jubilation of the players and the spectators. Sri Lanka went on to clinch the series with a draw in the third and last Test at Kandy.

Australia v Pakistan, First Test, 2002-03

Security concerns meant that Australia’s scheduled three-Test series in Pakistan was played in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates instead. Australia’s first innings of 467 revolved around an aggressive 141 from Ricky Ponting, aided by fifties from Mark Waugh (55), Damien Martyn (67) and Adam Gilchrist (66*). In reply, Younis Khan (58), Faisal Iqbal (83) and Rashid Latif (66) helped Pakistan recover from 75/4 to 279, with the talismanic Shane Warne collecting 7/94.

Australia were 74/1 in the second innings when Shoaib Akhtar produced a fiery spell. Akhtar removed Ponting, Mark Waugh and captain Steve Waugh in four balls en route to figures of 5/21, while at the other end, Saqlain Mushtaq (4/46) hastened Australia’s capitulation to 127. Chasing 316, Pakistan moved to 230/4 on the fifth morning thanks to Taufeeq Umar (88). However, a flurry of wickets secured a 41-run win for Australia, with Warne taking another 4/94.

Sri Lanka v South Africa, Second Test, 2006

South Africa bounced back from an innings defeat at the SSC with a much-improved performance, but could not prevent Sri Lanka from sweeping the series. After slumping to 70/4, the visitors were served by a fourth-wicket stand of 161 between stand-in captain Ashwell Prince (Graeme Smith missed the series due to injury) and A.B. de Villiers, who scored 86 and 95 respectively. Muttiah Muralitharan took 5/128, but the Proteas put up a robust 361 on the board.

Sri Lanka faltered against the pace of Dale Steyn (5/82) and Makhaya Ntini (4/84) in reply, and at 86/5, they looked to be down for the count. The revival came through Chamara Kapugedera (63), followed by a rearguard 117-run eighth-wicket stand between Farveez Maharoof (56) and Chaminda Vaas (64), which boosted the hosts’ total to 321. In the second innings, South Africa’s top order was held by Herschelle Gibbs (92), while Mark Boucher (65) anchored the lower order.

Though the irrepressible Muralitharan snared 7/97 to finish with 12/225 in the match (his fourth ten-wicket haul in a row), Sri Lanka required a steep 352 to win. Sanath Jayasuriya provided early impetus with 73, before Mahela Jayawardene constructed a century. The Lankan captain was seventh out at 341 for a fine 123, after which two more wickets fell for nine runs to raise the tension. In a nail-biting finish, Lasith Malinga hit the run that sealed Sri Lanka’s one-wicket win.

Sri Lanka v India, Third Test, 2010

India needed to win in order to square the three-match series. Thilan Samaraweera (137*) top-scored in Sri Lanka’s first innings, propelling the total to 425. India replied with 436 to take a narrow lead, thanks to Virender Sehwag’s blitzing 109 at the top and meaty knocks all the way till the lower order. India’s spinners then had Sri Lanka reeling at 125/8, before a gutsy ninth-wicket stand worth 118 between Samaraweera (83) and Ajantha Mendis (78) led the total to 267.

The off-spin of Suraj Randiv (5/82) derailed India’s chase of 257 early, and at 62/4 on the fifth morning, the visitors were in dire need of a saviour. It was the wristy VVS Laxman, having already contributed a crucial 56 in the first innings, who rose to the challenge. Laxman went on to score an unbeaten 109 in the course of partnerships of 109 and 87* with Sachin Tendulkar (54) and Suresh Raina respectively to guide India to a series-levelling five-wicket win before tea.   

Sri Lanka v New Zealand, Second Test, 2012-13

Under pressure to retain his captaincy, Ross Taylor responded with a gritty 142 after deciding to bat first. His third-wicket stand of 262 with Kane Williamson (135) rescued New Zealand from 14/2 and steered them to 412. Pacers Tim Southee (5/62) and Trent Boult (4/42) consolidated the position, delivering a lead of 168. Taylor scored a further 74 in the second innings to help set Sri Lanka a target of 363. The hosts fell to 63/5 and duly crumbled for 195, leaving the series drawn.

Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Second Test, 2016-17

Prior to this fixture, which was their 100th Test, Bangladesh had lost 15 out of their 17 Tests (two draws) against Sri Lanka. Dinesh Chandimal (138) helped Sri Lanka recover from 70/4 to 338, but the Tigers seized a lead of 129 despite being 198/5, due to Shakib Al Hasan’s 116. Dimuth Karunaratne (126) carried Sri Lanka to 319 in the second attempt, after which Tamim Iqbal (82) kept the spinners at bay, paving the way for the Tigers’ four-wicket win that drew the rubber 1-1.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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