Colombo: An absorbing day`s play came to an end with India registering 53/3 at stumps on Day 4, needing 204 more runs to win the match and level the series.
There were twists and turns right throughout the day, it started with the fall of Jayawardene and Sangakkara very early in the morning. Onus was on Samaraweera to bat with the tail and he stood up to the task.
Ajantha Mendis was another unexpected star with the willow and his innings was marked with some confident strokeplay combined with rock solid defenses as he along with Samaraweera took the lead past 250.
Needing 257, the Indians came out, only to worsen their problems as Sehwag departed quite early. Dravid and Vijay did not last long either as Randiv destroyed the top order with some fine spin bowling. However, India is known for the depth in their batting line up and the morning session on Day 5 will determine the fate of this series.
Sri Lanka on the other hand, were all out for 267 runs after the tail enders gave nightmares studded with a plethora of boundaries to the hapless looking Indian bowlers.
With the average last innings total at the P Sara Stadium being a paltry 215, it would be quite a task for Dhoni’s men to win the tie to equal the series.
Abhimanyu Mithun had finally got the much needed break after the first eight wickets, claiming Thilan Samaraweera at a score of 83 runs. The misery of many hours was broken with a good bouncer from wide of the crease on middle and leg. The delivery was too much for Thilan to hook to safety and he edged it into the hands of MS Dhoni.
Ajantha Mendis had come up with his life’s best batting performance just when it was needed the most, and slammed his maiden Test fifty. He, along with Samaraweera, forged a stand that made the Indian bowlers, who started the day on a high note, look ordinary. He was the last man to fall, at a score of 78 runs.
A centurion partnership between Samaraweera and Ajantha Mendis for the penultimate wicket had helped the hosts reach 225/8 at tea even as the Indian bowlers looked for the final nails in the coffin.
The duo battled it out, milking runs while India were seen wanting for a Kumble-like finisher at the P Sara Oval. The result was sublime - the post-lunch session yielded no wickets for the hosts.
The reason for Sri Lanka’s scorecard was the tight bowling by the Indian spinners on the penultimate day. Virender Sehwag was the man with the golden arm, dismissing Lasith Malinga (15) just when he looked to forge a vital partnership with Samaraweera to salvage some pride. The fall of the eighth wicket with just over a 100 runs on the board meant real hard work for Sri Lanka to make a game out of it, and they were true to the job.
Amit Mishra too, finally tweaked it for India, claiming two consecutive wickets of Angelo Mathews (5) and Prasanna Jayawardene (0). Pragyan Ojha, in the meanwhile, had continued to haunt the Sri Lankan batting line-up, taking off from his good form of the first innings as he scalped three more batsmen in the second innings to expose the hosts’ middle order early on.