On this day in 1997 Sri Lanka recorded the highest Test total 952-6

On this day in 1997 Sri Lanka recorded the highest Test total 952-6

On this day in 1997 Sri Lanka recorded the highest Test total 952-6: With Test matches being more result oriented these days thanks to T20 cricket, large totals are a rarity. But if the pitch is like a road and the batsmen in total command, you expect it to be a nightmare for the bowlers. And that is exactly what transpired when India toured Sri Lanka for a 2-Test series in 1997. The ensuing five days of the 1st (2-6 August) Test put Sri Lanka on the record books while for India, it demoralized their bowlers to such an extent that some never recovered.

In the first match at the R Premadasa stadium, Sachin Tendulkar won the toss and chose to bat on a pitch which resembled a national highway. Opener Nayan Mongia got out early with the score of 36. However, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rahul Dravid took the Indians to 183 before Sidhu was caught behind for 111. Centuries from Sidhu, and Mohammad Azharuddin helped India declare on 537/8. Muttiah Muralitharan toiled away for 65 overs and finished up with 2/174. This meant that getting 20 wickets on this deck was going to be a massive task.

India started off brightly when Nilesh Kulkarni got a wicket in his first ball in Test cricket by snapping up Marvan Atapattu for 26. He became the 12th player overall and first Indian to achieve the feat. From that time on, there was a partnership which gave a new dimension to batting and it set, at that time, the benchmark for all batting records.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama batted for two full days and shared a 576-run stand for the second wicket. It was the highest partnership for any wicket at that time in international cricket as they just grinded the Indian bowling to dust. Jayasuriya scored the first triple century by a Sri Lankan batsman. By the start of the fifth day, he was within touching distance from Brian Lara’s record of 375. On the fifth day, a large crowd had gathered at the R. Premadasa Stadium, anticipating a new world record from Jayasuriya. 30,000 were allowed entry free of charge. But much to the crowd’s disappointment, Jayasuriya was caught on 340 by Ganguly at silly point off the bowling of Rajesh Chauhan.

However, Sri Lanka decided to prolong the agony and bat on. Aravinda de Silva scored 126 and Arjuna Ranatunga chipped in with 86. Mahela Jayawardene, who was making his Test debut, could not have asked for a better situation to bat on and he made merry by scoring a confident 66. When the end was approaching, Sri Lanka had batted for 271 overs and recorded the highest Test total 952-6 declared. This is till date the highest team total in one innings of a Test match and third highest in all cricket. The partnership of 576 between Mahanama and Jayasuriya remained the best stand in Tests until Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene stitched an epic 624-run stand against South Africa nine years later.

Sanath Jayasuriya was deservedly declared the Man of the Match for his brilliant triple ton. Tendulkar said after the game that the pitch was unfit for Test cricket. Analysts believed the surface was too docile while the Sri Lankan’s were not complaining. However, when one looks at it only from the numbers point of view, it was an epic match.