Colombo, Aug 31 (IANS) India remained on course for an away Test cricket series victory against Sri Lanka after 22 years, as the hosts chasing a challenging target of 386 to win, struggled to reach 67/3 in their second innings at stumps on the fourth day of the third match here on Monday.
Opener Kaushal Silva (24 not out) and skipper Angelo Mathews (22 not out) were at the crease for Sri Lanka at stumps at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC). Indian pacers Ishant Sharma (2-14) and Umesh Yadav (1-32) struck yet again in the second innings to leave the visitors just seven wickets away from a memorable victory.
Virat Kohli-led India slumped to a 63-run loss in the first Test at Galle despite dominating much of the match, but shook off the disappointment by thumping the hosts to a 278-run loss in the second Test at the P. Sara Oval. India are eyeing their first Test series win in the island nation since 1993.
The fourth day of the ongoing Test belonged entirely to India which started off with their batsmen showing their class and composure to build a strong lead. Sri Lanka had managed 201 in the first innings in reply to India’s 312.
Sri Lanka came into bat in the second innings with a daunting 386-run target ahead of them and looked nervous right from the start as opener Upul Tharanga (0) fell in the sixth ball of the innings to Ishant.
Dimuth Karunaratne (0) too perished in the fourth over, leaving Lanka in a spot of bother at 2/2.
In-form batsman Dinesh Chandimal (18) too soon went back to the pavilion, leaving the hosts on a sticky wicket with a day remaining in the Test match.
Earlier, India resumed the fourth day at 21/3, with overnight batsmen Rohit Sharma (50) and Kohli (21) getting the proceedings underway by facing the Sri Lankan bowlers smartly on a bright sunny morning.
But Kohli edged one to first slip off the bowling of Nuwan Pradeep to hand the opposition their first wicket of the day. India were 64/4 then.
Then Stuart Binny joined hands with Rohit for a handy 54-run partnership for the fifth wicket to take the lead past the 200-run mark.
Just a few minutes before lunch, Rohit gave his wicket away while attempting a pull off a short delivery from pacer Prasad.
With the dismissal of Rohit, debutant wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha joined Binny in the middle as India reached 132/5 at lunch.
The partnership between Binny (49) and Ojha (35) ended soon after lunch as the team’s score reached 160.
After striking seven fours in his 62-ball 49, Binny edged a good length delivery from pacer Dhammika Prasad to Tharanga, who at first slip dived to his left and plucked a low catch.
His partner Ojha who was also looking set, soon fell to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, leaving India wobbling at 179/7.
Two quick wickets did not matter for incoming batsmen Ravichandran Ashwin (58) and Amit Mishra (39) as the duo added some vital runs in a 55-run partnership to push ahead India’s lead.
Off-spinner Ashwin was the highest run-scorer for India and the last wicket to fall as India were bowled out for 274 in their second innings and set a challenging 386-run target for the hosts.
Pacers Nuwan Pradeep and Prasad clinched four wickets each for the hosts.