Zeenews Bureau / Pratik Dogra
Mumbai: Even as other batsmen came and went, Sri Lankan captain Kumara Sangakkara stood tall, overcoming his wretched form in the series, to score a fine century.
His first ever century on Indian soil came even as his team battled to save the ignominy of suffering consecutive innings defeats.
Thanks to his gust effort, Sri Lanka ended the day 4 at 274/6, still needing another 75 runs to starve off an innings defeat.
The skipper ended the day unconquered on 133 runs, surviving 258 balls in his marathon effort.
Scratchy to start with, once he got his eye in, Sangakkara rediscovered his groove, hitting 19 sweetly timed hits to fence besides a six.
For most part of the day, however, he seemed to be waging a lonely battle and looked to be in danger of running out of partners, until he was joined by Nuwan Kulasekara for an undefeated 66 run-partnership for the seventh wicket.
From India’s point of view, victory seemed a matter of time when Pragyan Ojha picked up his second wicket by trapping Prasanna Jayawardene LBW for 32 runs.
Prasanna had defied Indian bowlers for a while, raising a 64-run partnership with Sangakkara, but Ojha proved to be too good for him.
His loss had left Sri Lanka 208/6, but Kulasekara came to his team’s aid, ensuring that Sri Lanka would live to see another day.
Just before tea, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni completed a century of dismissals when he caught Angelo Mathews off the bowling of Pragyan Ojha.
Unnecessarily chasing away at a lovely spinning delivery from Ojha, Mathews could only manage a faint edge as Sri Lanka’s prospects seemed to be going from bad to worse.
Mathews made just 5 runs and with Sri Lankans tottering at 144/5, umpires announced the tea break.
Earlier, Zaheer Khan did the star turn for India, providing a double breakthrough with the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Thilana Samaraveera.
First when he induced an edge from a tentative Mahela to Dhoni, and then, two overs later, he duped Samaraveera with a late ‘lift’, inducing a low catch at second slip to VVS Laxman.
Former Sri Lankan captain made just 12 runs, while Samarveera failed to open his account.
However, it was Sreesanth who ignited the mini collapse when he broke through Tharanga Paranavitana’s resistance to give India their second success of the day.
Paranavitana, who had displayed great composure during his 54-run knock, was caught plumb in front of the wicket to a near perfect length delivery from Sreesanth that came into the batsman after pitching on the middle and off-stump.
Paranavitana’s defiance lasted 144 balls and contained 8 hits to the fence as he seemed to have steadied the Sri Lankan ship with a solid 90 run-partnership with Sangakkara for the second wicket after Tillakaratne Dilshan’s early loss.
Harbhajan had struck the first nail in Sri Lanka’s coffin when he trapped the danger-man and first innings centurion Dilshan, LBW for 16 runs.
Sri Lanka had been looking at Dilshan, with his positive approach, to anchor the team to safety before Harbhajan poured cold water to their aspirations.
Replays however suggested that Dilshan, for the second time in the match, got a tough decision against him.
Harbhajan looked as the bowler most likely to cause damage but was unlucky to pick just one wicket. Ojha and Zaheer picked two each while Sreesanth to managed a solitary scalp.
With a cushion of 333 runs, India exploited the luxury of attacking the Sri Lankan batsmen to hilt. A victory at Brabourne would not only clinch a comprehensive series victory for India, but also would make them the number one team on the ICC Test rankings.
With their hopes of recording first ever Test victory rudely blown apart by Virender Sehwag (293) on Thursday, and then Dhoni (100 not out) on Friday, Sri Lanka would need a miracle to escape another humiliating defeat here.