Test Match #2176, Sri Lanka vs India, Galle
It had all the ingredients for a Test Match Classic – A match about which reams of newsprint should have been written and thousands of blogs published. One to been remembered for ages. Yet somehow it wasn’t.
Day 1&2: The home side began by winning the toss and getting knocked over for a paltry score on the very first day. The tourists take a huge lead of 192 runs built on the back of a huge third wicket stand which itself surpasses the home side’s tally. And then quickly remove both the home team’s openers for ducks by the close of the second day’s play. They are in the driver’s seat with not many thinking of the match going beyond the third day.
Day 3: The nightwatchman is dismissed off the very first ball. Little partnerships happen but the big wickets keep coming. At lunch with half the side back in pavilion, the home team trails by nearly hundred runs and an early finish to the day is on the cards. But their wicket-keeper has other ideas and produces one of those fearless, nothing-to-lose counter-attacks. The deficit is chipped away rapidly and then the lead starts building up. A small one at first, it soon enters the irritating category and then progresses into the “we have a match on our hands” zone. The home side eventually get dismissed after setting a 176 run target. The visitors lose one of their openers but watch out the rest of the day’s play. They are still very much in driver’s seat.
Day 4: Its the Independence Day for the tourists. But the runs are very hard to come by as the batsmen are shackled up by the home spinners. The same spinners who had no effect in the first innings. The wickets have start tumbling. One after the other, the visiting batsmen are snared. And the home side manages to secure a big come-from-behind victory. Meanwhile the visitors are left stunned, trying to figure out how this dramatic turnaround came into being.
As if the dramatic action on the field wasn't enough, there were lots of other stories
- The series is the last for one of the home side legends. The home supporters are taking every opportunity to bid a grand farewell to their hero.
- The tourists have a new captain who has been talking a lot about playing aggressively and getting the results after having spent quite some time getting hammered all around the globe.
- The tourists get a big first innings lead based on one big partnership featuring a man playing with a hairline fracture in his hand. Add the chance that he might not even have played this game if his regular opening partner had not been injured.
- The home side’s wrecker-in-chief in the second innings is an ageing, rotund spinner who himself is coming back from injury. He picks up seven in the second innings after none in the first. Quite a turnaround in fortunes.
- In between one of the visiting players sets a new world record for the most catches by a non-wicket-keeper in a Test match.
- And finally, it was one of the Big Three playing against a (relatively) tiny cricketing nation. The richest team in the world taking on a team whose players sometimes are not paid (One of their ex-captains on being fined by ICC said, first I need to be paid to be fined).
An exciting match, a dramatic turnaround, a potential David vs Goliath battle, a retiring legend, records getting broken, players battling through injury, umpiring errors – in short all the ingredients to be count as an all-time classic.
Except it was another India vs Sri Lanka match – already forgotten.
A lesson for the cricket administrators here - contests need a context. And rivalries are developed with time not frequency