Mumbai, Dec.5 (ANI): India were made to fight hard on the fourth day of the third and final cricket Test against Sri Lanka being played at the Brabourne Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.
The Indians still need four wickets to grab a two-nil scoreline in the series and achieve the coveted number one ranking among Test playing nations.
Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara is still at the crease with a battling unbeaten 133, containing 19 boundaries and a six. Fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara is giving him company. The visitors are still trailing the home side by 59 runs, and as the situation stands now, could make India bat again for an almost certain victory.
India spent most of the day working its way through the Sri Lanka batting line-up, and was helped considerably by a middle-order collapse of four wickets for 25 runs immediately after lunch.
The day began with another umpiring howler against Tillakaratne Dilshan, followed by a stodgy 90-run stand between Tharanga Paranavitana and Sangakkara, before the middle-order wobbled against the inspired Indian bowling.
Although lucky with Dilshan's wicket, Harbhajan then gave both the left-hand batsmen a tough time. He bowled smartly, but Sangakkara and Paranavitana batted smartly too.
Harbhajan mixed pace, trajectory, line, and angle and beat the batsmen with his variations. But Sangakkara and Paranavitana didn't let him have a prolonged spell at either of them by taking quick singles. Three of Harbhajan's subsequent overs in that spell featured plays and misses, all four had singles.
Initially Paranavitana was more at ease than Sangakkara, who looked for the getaway sweep shot against Harbhajan and nearly got out twice.
Paranavitana was solid in defence and rarely played away from his body but he still played aggressive shots for release every now and then, especially against Pragyan Ojha, whom he lofted for three on-side boundaries. After lunch Paranavitana reached a well-deserved half-century, his second in the match, but was soon done in by a superb outswinger from Sreesanth. The bowler had to wait his turn on the fourth morning, with MS Dhoni choosing to begin with spin from one end, but made his presence felt with sharp swing.
By then Sangakkara had settled in and Sri Lanka's challenge was to bat through scoreless periods without letting it affect them, the cricinfo website reports.
Sangakkara managed that, defending stoutly, using his feet against the spinners, spending 17 balls on 46, and then bringing up his fifty off 145 balls.
The other two middle-order mainstays, though, couldn't match Sangakkara. Zaheer followed Sreesanth's impressive spell with his best of the series. A 22-ball run-less period followed a ball that moved slightly away from Mahela Jayawardene and took the edge. Four overs later, from round the stumps, Zaheer tucked up Thilan Samaraweera, who edged low to first slip where VVS Laxman took a sharp catch. Just before tea, Ojha spun one sharply across Angelo Mathews, giving Dhoni his 100th catch, and not a straightforward one at that.
Sri Lanka went into the break 189 runs behind. They returned having learnt the lesson, and made a conscious effort to not get bogged down. Sangakkara started stepping out to Ojha and cleared the aggressive field placements with ease. Prasanna Jayawardene pulled and drove Zaheer for fours, slog-swept Virender Sehwag for a six, and in no time the deficit started approaching double figures. Ojha ended that partnership when Prasanna played down the wrong line and was caught lbw.
The two had added 64 runs in 14.4 overs. At stumps, Sangakkara and Kulasekara had added an unbeaten 66 in 17.3 overs. (ANI)