Colombo, August 31: Building on a 111-run lead India were leading by 132 runs with seven wickets in hand in the second innings when play was called off in the last session of Day 3 due to rain. With India on 21 for three the series decider was hanging in balance at stumps on Sunday evening.
15 wickets fell on the third day as the seamers got purchase from the wicket and dominated the proceedings. After Cheteshwar Pujara (145*) carried his bat through to help India to 312 in the first innings before being bowled out in the morning; Ishant Sharma-led (five-for) attack bowled Sri Lanka out for 201 in the first innings later in the day. Utilising the pitch conditions to claim the Indian top-order the SL pacers left the visitors on seven for three and kept the hosts in the reckoning.
Once again India lost an opener in the first over to Dhammika Prasad. Pujara was bowled for duck off the second ball and after posting two runs on the board, KL Rahul was castled by Nuwan Pradeep leaving India on two for two. Ajinkya Rahane, who then got off the mark with a boundary past mid-on off Prasad was trapped lbw by Pradeep in the next over.
Building on the hard yards done by Pujara to set up the game for India, the Indian pacers then made early inroads in to the SL line-up by claiming the top and middle-order and tipped the balance in India’s favour.
Armed with the new ball, Ishant and Umesh Yadav claimed the openers to leave SL on 11 for two. Ishant drew an edge from Upul Tharanga through to the slips and KL Rahul took the catch to give India their first wicket. In the following over, Kaushal Silva played-on a short pitched delivery from Yadav on to the stumps.
Ishant and Yadav hit the deck hard and tested the batsmen with a tight line. Binny, who came in as first change too bent his back to keep the batsmen on their toes. Negotiating the pacers, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal added 29 runs to the total until Binny accounted for the latter.
Brought back into the attack Ishant forced an edge from Angelo Mathews with a ball that went away from the batsman and straight to the wicketkeeper and Naman Ojha took the catch to leave SL struggling on 45 for four.
At the stroke of Lunch, Binny had Karunaratne edge to the slips to and with Lahiru Thirimanne yet to open his account, to leave the hosts reeling on 47 for five.
Second ball post lunch, Ishant had Thirimanne edge the ball to the slips and Rahul took a low diving catch to peg the Sri Lankans further back. SL’s woes continued as Prasad retired hurt off the next ball. Fending a short ball from Ishant the batsman was struck on his hand.
Two overs later Kusal Perera (55 off 56), living dangerously survived as Rahul missed a difficult chance in the slips. While India looked to tighten the noose in the second session, the debutant launched a counter attack. Rallying on he took on the Indian bowlers and with the experienced Herath built crucial 79-run partnership to avoid the follow-on.
Scoring at a brisk pace in an effort to rebuild the innings, Perera notched up his maiden half-century with two runs off Yadav. He then lofted Ishant over the bowler’s head for four as he continued to bat with gusto. However, two deliveries later the middle-order bat skied the ball and Virat Kohli took the catch at mid-off.
With SL on 133 for seven, Kohli introduced spin from both ends. Herath however, motored on to keep the innings afloat. 29 runs later, Tharindu Kaushal was out lbw off Amit Mishra.
Herath continued to sweep and reverse-sweep while adding valuable runs. With Prasad, who had returned to the crease and taking his chances, he took the team through to Tea at 175 for eight.