This day, that year: Sanath Jayasuriya, Roshan Mahanama batting fest

Published Aug 6, 2015, 10:28 pm IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 7:12 am IST
Mumbai: The current crop in Indian cricketers (who are in Sri Lanka for a Test series after five years) is like a bunch of young school students in a queue taking the stairs to the classroom after a morning assembly. With no senior prefects around, the kids can only ask for their class notes to pass the exam. Eighteen years ago on this day (August 6, 1997), their seniors saw the end of a Test match (in the island) that gave them nightmares.
India – in their tour of Sri Lanka – drew the first Test at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo but were left breathless by Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama’s ruthless never-ending batting.
The Sri Lankan cricket team, which won the World Cup in 1996, was like old wine in a dark tavern. Whatever they touched, turned gold. Hence, thrashing a spineless Indian bowling attack came easy to them.
Coming to the Test, batting first, Indian batsmen fared well and declared at 537/8. Mohammad Azharuddin (126), skipper Sachin Tendulkar (143) and Navjot Sidhu (111) scored individual centuries. Still in his early days, Rahul Dravid made a handsome 69.
A result could have been possible given India’s huge total but Ranatunga’s men reversed the gear.
Jayasuriya and Mahanama stitched a 576-run partnership for the second wicket. Both the cricketers registered their highest score in Tests. While Mahanama fell for 225, Jayasuriya went on to score a triple (340) but missed Brian Lara’s record (375 that time) by a whisker.
The hosts reached another milestone. They were the second team to score more than 900 runs in an innings, breaking the previous record (903/7) set by England in 1938. To save India from further humiliation, they eventually declared at 952/6.
The Test also marked the debut of an 18-year-old Mahela Jayawardene who hung up his pads in 2014. 
Amongst the Indians, Mumbai spinner Nilesh Kulkarni earned his Test cap only to be blown away by Jayasuriya’s boundaries. He only played two Tests after that in a span of four years.
Two Indian bowlers conceded more than 200 runs – Anil Kumble (72-7-223-1) and  Rajesh Chauhan (78-8-276-1). Kulkarni missed out on the double figures by five runs (70-12-195-1).
Tendulkar tried all means possible to get the two of them out and had also thrown the ball to Dravid. He rolled his arms, tried out off-breaks for a couple of overs.
It is about to be two decades but the memory is still fresh in the cricketers’ minds. However, the present Indian cricketers were actually in school that time. 
The boys take on Sri Lanka in the first Test at Galle from August 12.


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