Virender Sehwag hit a typically robust unbeaten 97 off 87 balls to lead India’s reply after Thilan Samaraweera’s century lifted Sri Lanka to 425 in the third and final Test yesterday.
Sehwag, who made 109 in the first Test and 99 in the second, continued his brilliant form to lift India to 180-2 by stumps on an absorbing third day’s play at the P. Sara Oval.
Sachin Tendulkar, the world’s leading run-getter, marked his record 169th Test appearance with an unbeaten 40 in an unbroken 88-run third wicket stand with Sehwag.
Top-ranked India, seeking a series-leveling victory after losing the first Test, resume on the third day 245 runs behind with eight wickets in hand.
Sri Lanka’s first innings prospered through Samaraweera’s 12th century, before the hosts were all out midway through the post-lunch session.
Samaraweera, a 33-year-old veteran of 60 Tests, remained unbeaten on 137 after reaching his century in the last over before lunch, courtesy of an overthrow that fetched the batsman five runs.
Sehwag ensured India did not lag behind as he launched a spectacular assault on the Sri Lankan bowling with 17 hits to the fence.
The swashbuckling opener, playing his 79th match, became the sixth Indian batsman to complete 7,000 Test runs when he reached 70 with a single off Lasith Malinga.
More than 4,000 of those runs had come in fours, having hit his 1,000th boundary earlier in the innings.
Murali Vijay contributed 14 in an opening stand of 49 with Sehwag when he mistimed a drive off Malinga and gave Ajantha Mendis an easy catch in the covers.
Rahul Dravid made 23 when he was trapped leg before wicket in Angelo Mathews’ first over to reduce India to 92-2, but Tendulkar and Sehwag settled in to deny Sri Lanka further success.
The pair played both pace and spin comfortably, with Tendulkar matching Sehwag’s stroke-play with five well-timed boundaries.
Earlier, the overnight pair of Samaraweera and Mathews batted for an hour to take their fifth-wicket partnership to 89 runs, before India finally broke through.
Mathews, who made 45, was trapped leg before wicket by Pragyan Ojha, giving the Hyderabad left-arm spinner his third wicket in the innings.
Ojha struck again six overs later when Prasanna Jayawardene, who made 9, missed an attempted sweep and was caught plumb in front of the wicket.
Sri Lanka, who went to lunch on 369-6, lost two quick wickets after the resumption.
Suraj Randiv top-edged a sweep off Sehwag, while leg-spinner Amit Mishra held a return catch from Malinga to claim his first wicket after 37 overs that cost 130 runs.
Mishra, who replaced the injured Harbhajan Singh, finished with expensive figures of 1-140 from 42 overs.
Ojha was the lone Indian bowler to take advantage of a wicket assisting turn and bounce to return with 4-115. Seamer Ishant Sharma claimed 3-72, including the last two wickets.
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