New Delhi: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin turned it around for the hosts, clinching three wickets as centuries from skipper Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews helped Sri Lanka reach 356/9 at stumps on Day 3 of the third and final Test here on Monday.
Bad light forced play to be called off five minutes prior to the scheduled close as Chandimal remained unbeaten on a 341-ball 147 with tailender Lakshan Sandakan on nought. The islanders now trail India by 180 runs with one wicket remaining.
After engaging in a massive 181-run fourth wicket stand with Mathews, Chandimal waged a lone battle for the tourists, helping them save the follow-on as the Indian bowlers led by Ashwin and the pace duo of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami rocked the lower middle order.
It turned out to be another typical Ferozeshah Kotla wicket where the ball started doing the trick, thanks to the foot-marks outside the crease helping Ashwin to get rid of dangerman Mathews (111), debutant Roshen Silva and stumper Niroshan Dickwella for ducks.
Ishant and Shami added to the woes by picking the wickets of Sadeera Samarawickrama (33) and Suranga Lakmal (5) respectively, the credit for which also goes to stumper Wriddhiman Saha's brilliant dives.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja also joined the party by trapping Lahiru Gamage (1) as the visitors found themselves tottering at 343/9.
Earlier, resuming the day at 131/3, Mathews and Chandimal battled the hazy conditions to add 61 runs and deny India any luck in the morning session which saw the Sri Lankans going in to the lunch interval at 192/3.
Coming back, Mathews made the most of the two lifelines -- dropped on Sunday in single digits and then on Monday dropped at 98 by Rohit Sharma at second slip off Ishant Sharma -- to bring up his 8th Test ton in style.
Mathews' 268-ball marathon effort, consisting of 14 boundaries and 2 sixes, was however, ended just at the stroke of tea when he edged one to wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha off Ashwin,
The 181-run partnership between Mathews and Chandimal came off 477 balls -- the most balls faced by any pair against India since the 738-ball stonewalling by Brendon McCullum and B.J. Watling in Wellington in February 2014.
Chandimal at the other end, continued to put pressure on the home bowlers as he completed his 10th Test ton just after the tea break with Samarawickrama in company.
Samarawickrama, the opening batsman, who was hit on the helmet grill on the opening day while fielding at short leg, came in to bat at the unusual No.5 spot.
Ashwin turned the tide in favour of the home side during the final hour of play with two quick wickets before Ishant, Shami and Jadeja joined the Tamil Nadu off-spinner to make life difficult for the tourists on a day which saw the floodlights switched on post the lunch session.
The early close of play on Monday will result in the addition of a couple of overs to the fourth day's play on Tuesday.
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