India set Sri Lanka a target of 410 to win the third Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Tuesday (December 5).
After bowling out Sri Lanka for 373 on the fourth morning, India raced to 246 for 5 in 52.2 overs, courtesy half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan (67), Virat Kohli (50) and Rohit Sharma (50*), before declaring their innings closed. Cheteshwar Pujara missed his half-century by one run. With a possible 29 overs remaining in the day, India will fancy their chances of making severe dents on the Sri Lankan chase.
The day panned out exactly as India would have hoped it would; they took the last remaining Sri Lankan wicket early on and then their batsmen took over, courtesy partnerships of 77 between Dhawan and Pujara, followed by 90 between Kohli and Rohit.
Once India bowled Sri Lanka out, M Vijay tried to get India off to a quick start but fell to Suranga Lakmal after a couple of boundaries.
India gave the out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane a promotion to No. 3, but the move backfired as he struggled throughout his 37-ball 10. He survived two leg before appeals on review and was generally tentative, struggling to rotate strike on a slow pitch against disciplined bowling.
With Dhawan too taking a more cautious approach, the frustration began to show on Rahane. He finally succumbed to the pressure, stepping out and lofting Dilruwan Perera straight to long-on in an attempt to attack his way into form.
Pujara then showed how it’s done, scoring fluently and helping India pick up pace in the process. He did it with terrific footwork against the spinners, often charging down and converting deliveries into full tosses or half-volleys.
Against the run of play, Pujara played for non-existent turn and edged a straight ball from Dhananjaya de Silva to slip when 49. But his positive approach rubbed off on Dhawan, who opened up by taking Lakshan Sandakan for a straight six before being stumped while going for another.
Rohit and Kohli then assumed charge, scoring briskly for their half-centuries. Kohli fell after his fifty, which also took his series tally past 600, while India declared immediately after Rohit reached his milestone.
Earlier, Dinesh Chandimal got his highest Test score in a marathon 361-ball 164 to eat into India’s total. The Sri Lankan skipper got good support from Sandakan, the No. 11 who hung in for 20 balls despite not scoring a run, before being the last man dismissed for a Test-best 164. He finally fell slashing Ishant Sharma to third-man to hand the pacer his third wicket of the innings.