Sri Lanka spinners fought their way back into the third and final Test match after Shikhar Dhawan slammed his 6th century on day one in Pallekelle.
Left-arm spin twins, Malinda Pushpakumara and Lakshan Sandakan shared five wickets to restrict the Indians to 329 for 6 after Dhawan and KL Rahul posted the highest opening stand of 188 against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
After opting to bat first for the third consecutive time, India got off to a rollicking start as the two young seamers, Lahiru Kumara and Vishwa Fernando leaked plenty of runs in the opening hour bowling either too short or too full to let Dhawan and Rahul cash in comfortably. The visitors went into lunch unscathed on 134 runs with both Rahul and Dhawan posting fifties.
Pushpakumara who was introduced into the attack for the first time in the 40th over imminently tempted KL Rahul to come down the track and play a loose shot. Rahul was given reprieves on 28 by Kumara at mid-on in the 12th over and on 67 by Mathews at first slip but missed out on another century when Dimuth Karunarathne held on to a neat catch above his head at mid-on.
Rahul became the 6th batsman to score 50+ runs in seven successive Test matches after Everton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara and Chris Rogers.
Dhawan dominated the bowling in his stay slapping viciously and driving sweetly. He reached his 2nd hundred in the series and batted with utmost ease before sweeping Pushpakumara straight to short square leg where Chandimal took a smart catch at short square leg.
Chesteshwar Pujara who made centuries in both the previous Tests’ was unsettled by Kumara’s barrage of short deliveries but Sandakan got the better of him when an outside edge deviated off Dickwella’s keeping glove and popped into Mathews’ palms.
Ajinkya Rahane struggled heavily against the spin of Sandakan scoring a perpetuated 48-ball 17 before perishing to Pushpakumara. Rahane danced down the track and completely missed virtually a straight delivery.
Kohli and Ashwin looked to take the game away but the hosts chipped away yet again in the final hour to dismiss both for 42 and 31 respectively. Sandakan brought the Indian captain forward with a tossed-up delivery and induced an edge to first slip for 42. Vishwa Fernando struck minutes before stumps when Ashwin edged behind where Niroshan Dickwella took a brilliant catch diving to his right.
Sri Lanka picked up 3 wickets each in the last two sessions to share the honours on an evenly contested day. Earlier, the hosts made three changes and strengthened their bowling due to injuries to key bowlers while India made one forced change bringing in Kuldeep Yadav. The last time two Chinaman bowlers played in the opposing sides was in 2004 when Paul Adams & Dave Mohammed represented South Africa and West Indies respectively in Cape Town.
India – 329/6 (90 overs) – Shikhar Dhawan 119, KL Rahul 85, Virat Kohli 42, Ravichandran Ashwin 31, Malinda Pushpakumara 3/40, Lakshan Sandakan 2/84.