Despite a fighting knock of 102 by Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, his sixth Test century, India finished Day 3 of the second Test match at the P Sara Oval in Colombo on Saturday with the upper hand, building a lead of 157 runs after bowling out the hosts for 306 earlier in the day.
Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane were unbeaten on 39 and 28 respectively at stumps, with India's score at 70 for one, extending India's first-innings lead of 87. Opener Lokesh Rahul was dismissed by pacer Dhammika Prasad in the first over of India's second innings for just two runs.
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Resuming at the overnight score of 140 for three, the hosts were cruising along comfortably with Mathews (102) and Lahiru Thirimanne (62) adding 127 runs for the fourth wicket before losing seven wickets for a mere 65 runs on an engrossing third day's play.
The hosts were bowled out shortly after the tea break with leg-spinner Amit Mishra being the pick of the bowlers with figures of four for 43 in 21 overs. Mishra was well complemented by Ishant Sharma (two for 68) and Ravichandran Ashwin (two for 76) as they turned the tide just when it looked like Sri Lanka were on course for a decent first innings total.
Despite the loss of first-innings centurion Rahul, Vijay and Rahane ensured that there were no further setbacks.
The highlight of the third day's play was Mathews' sixth Test hundred as he gave ample display of his batting class and showed that he is ready to take over the mantle of the team's top batsman from retiring legend Kumar Sangakkara. His innings had 12 boundaries in all.
The first session of the day belonged to Sri Lanka as they went into lunch at 224 for three with Mathews batting on 72 and Thirimanne was undefeated on 57. But it was Sharma who turned the complexion of the game with his post-lunch spell. First he got rid of Thirimanne, caught behind off a fuller delivery.
A rain break followed, which must have impacted the batsmen's concentration as first Test hero Dinesh Chandimal (11) fell cheaply, offering a catch off Ishhant's delivery to Rahul at first slip.
With two full days left, India will look to push for a series-levelling win by setting a big target for the hosts on a tricky fifth-day P Sara Oval track. The track has already shown signs of wear and tear with the spinners getting enough turn to make batting difficult on the final two days.
(With inputs from IANS)