6th August 1997: Sri Lanka Pile Up 952 Against…

On this day in 1997, Sri Lanka broke the record for the highest single innings score in Test history, amassing 952 against India in Colombo. Arjuna Ranatunga’s side surpassed the previous best of 903 by England at The Oval in 1938.

The Test series of India’s tour to Sri Lanka in 1997 was dull affair, with both games eventually ending in stalemates. However, the first game is one that is remembered for providing a run-fest, especially by the hosts.

On a docile pitch at the R Premadasa Stadium, India declared at 537 for 8, courtesy of centuries from Navjot Singh Sidhu, skipper Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin.

On the evening of Day 2, Nilesh Kulkarni had a dream start to his Test career, picking up the wicket of Marvan Atapattu from his very first delivery. The dream soon turned into a nightmare for the Mumbai spinner, as he ended up wicketless for the next 69 overs. His fellow spinners Rajesh Chauhan and Anil Kumble suffered a similar fate, bowling 150 overs combined which yielded just two wickets.

The misery of the Indian bowlers came courtesy Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama who notched up a triple (340) and double century (225) respectively, with Aravinda de Silva adding 126.

Jayasuriya and Mahanama’s partnership lasted for two full days – the first instance of such an event in Test history. They added 576 in 753 minutes – the longest stand in Test history and only one run shy of the highest in first-class cricket (577 by Vijay Hazare and Gul Mahomed in 1946-47).

Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and 20-year-old Mahela Jayawardene further added to India’s woes with half-centuries on Day 5.

With possibility of a result negligible, play was halted with 13 overs left on the final day.

Unsurprisingly, Jayasuriya was awarded the player of the match for his triple century. The southpaw said post the game that he initially wanted to ensure Sri Lanka avoided the follow-on, which he eventually ended up doing on his own!