Any third day of a Test that begins with the side batting second against a huge total, is crucial. Especially, with the sight of Indian spinners on the fourth-innings track foremost on the mind. Sri Lanka must have been weighed down by that thought when they went for strange shots off S Sreesanth to hand India the advantage.
The visitors pressed the self-destruction button and at the end of Day Three, they were staring at defeat. Kumar Sangakkara found himself dismissed twice in a day along with two others — Mahela Jayawardene and Tharanga Paranavithana. The option for the remaining pack — the tail and Thilan Samaraweera — is delay the inevitable for as long as possible. With his long run-up, Sreesanth cornered attention in the morning, although he was not exceptional in pace or length. Zaheer, however, set Sangakkara up, tightening him with incoming deliveries.
With a leg slip, deep fine-leg and a short midwicket, Sangakkara was kept quiet. He wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Paranavithana, who fished outside the off-stump to give MS Dhoni a simple catch — and Sreesanth his first wicket.
Sangakkara tried to drive Sreesanth too early and away from his body, playing the ball onto his stumps. Two early wickets meant Mahela Jayawardene had to dig in. He stayed calm but pressure showed on the other man. Samaraweera twitched, fidgeted and adjusted his gloves while facing Sreesanth. On the very next ball, he too played onto his stumps. With feet rooted to the ground and bat flaying at the ball almost a yard away, he had let India in.
Angelo Mathews came in, got the measure of Pragyan Ojha, but failed to read a Harbhajan Singh delivery that held its line and clipped his off-stump. For a while, the two Jayawardenes stayed on and tried to enact their Ahmedabad stand. Except that, this time around, they had 642 ahead of them and not 426.
Prasanna Jayawardene, who was looking set for a big score, played away and was adjudged caught behind although replays suggested otherwise.
With Prasanna gone, Mahela knew there was only one way to relieve the pressure, and that was to take on the bowlers. But his idea failed when he lobbed a catch to Tendulkar at mid-on to give Ojha his first Test wicket. Sreesanth, on the threshold of a five-wicket haul, started to look ominous. The line and length started to get too hot for the tail to handle. India wrapped Sri Lanka up for 229 just after tea and enforced the follow-on.
On their second turn, the Lankans were even more clueless.