GALLE, Sri Lanka, (Reuters) – Muttiah Muralitharan edged closer to capturing his 800th test wicket in his farewell match as Sri Lanka pushed a floundering India to the brink of defeat yesterday.
India, who were dismissed for 276 in their first innings, ended the fourth day on 181 for five and need at least another 63 runs to avoid an innings defeat on the final day of the first test.
Muralitharan now stands just two wickets away from the landmark figure after he added Yuvraj Singh’s scalp to the five wickets he took during India’s first innings.
Yuvraj edged a catch to Mahela Jayawardene at slip in the final over of the day to give Muralitharan figures of one for 57.
However, it was fast bowler Lasith Malinga’s fiery second spell that broke the back of the Indian batting.
He sent back opener Gautam Gambhir caught behind without scoring off the third ball and later came back to dismiss Rahul Dravid for 44 and Sachin Tendulkar for 84 to finish the day with three for 33.
Dravid and Tendulkar looked like rescuing India after they had lost first innings century-maker Virender Sehwag for 31 when he was snapped up brilliantly by Jayawardene at gully.
The pair figured in a third wicket partnership of 119 but Malinga’s spell ended their charge. Dravid was caught at leg gully as he flicked a ball off his legs and Tendulkar was trapped lbw by a fast yorker aimed at his leg stump.
In his final test, Muralitharan picked up his 67th five-wicket haul and forced India to follow-on after they had resumed their first innings at 140-3.
Having dismissed Tendulkar in the first innings on the third day, Muralitharan added the wickets of Yuvraj (52), skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (33) and tailenders Pragyan Ojha and Abhimanyu Mithun.
Sehwag reached his 20th test century in the second over of the morning with a streaky inside-edged four off Angelo Mathews.
However, he went chasing after a wide delivery from Chanaka Welegedara on 109 and edged a catch to first slip after hitting 19 fours and a six in his 118-ball innings.
Malinga removed the other overnight batsman VVS Laxman for 22 when he top-edged a pull to deep square leg.
Yuvraj and Dhoni steadied the Indian innings with a sixth-wicket stand of 74 before Muralitharan broke through.