India suffered a sensational top-order collapse against Sri Lanka’s pacemen on a dramatic third day of the deciding final Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground on Sunday.
The visitors took a 111-run first innings lead after stubborn resistance by the hosts’ middle and lower order batsmen rescued them from 47 for 6 to 201 all out. India were 21/3 in their second innings when rain stopped play for the day, with skipper Virat Kohli (1) and Rohit Sharma (14) at the crease.
Cheteshwar Pujara finished unbeaten on 145 in the first innings to become only India’s fourth batsman to carry the bat -- Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag are the others --- and helped India score 312 all out.
(For match scores and statistics, click here)
But Pujara was sensationally bowled for a second-ball duck by paceman Dhammika Prasad. The bowler, nursing a left-hand injury suffered after being hit while batting, produced a delivery which seamed away after pitching to hit off-stump. He has struck in the first over in five of India's six innings in this series.
Pujara had taken first strike but that didn’t help young KL Rahul, who was bowled for two runs shouldering arms to an in-coming delivery for the second time in the Test. Dismissed for nought by Prasad in the first innings, he was beaten by Nuwan Pradeep this time.
In his 10 innings, Rahul has two centuries and seven innings of less than 10. Ajinkya Rahane was the other batsman to go, trapped leg before by Pradeep’s in-coming delivery.
Earlier, Ishant Sharma had given India the advantage. He claimed his seventh career five-wicket haul (5/54)as India's pacers left Sri Lanka tottering at six for 47, raising prospects of enforcing a follow-on.
Sri Lanka’s top-order batsmen caved in despite a desperate shuffle in the batting order after being routed for 134 in the second innings of the last Test, which India won by 278 runs. However, debutant wicketkeeper Kushal Perera, the 25-year-old left-hander dubbed the Sanath Jayasuriya clone for his aggression, belted a 56-ball 55 with nine fours.
He found excellent support from Rangana Herath, who scored a crucial 49 at No 9, the pair sharing in a 79-run seventh wicket partnership. Prasad (27), forced to retire hurt after receiving a blow on his left hand off the first ball he faced from Ishant, returned to throw the bat around, scoring 27.
Pujara hit 14 fours in his 289-ball first innings effort, batting for just over seven-and-a-half hours on his comeback.
With India only enjoying a small lead, they will have to bat really well from here to put themselves in a position to go for victory.