India were left rueing their missed opportunities as they allowed Sri Lanka to pile up a healthy total and take a 89-run first innings lead on the second day of the third and final Test here today.
Each of the top five batsmen received at least one 'life' as Sri Lanka reached 323 for five in reply to India's first innings score of 234.
Two of those batsmen went on to make big scores with Marvan Atapattu scoring a century (108) and Mahela Jayawardene just five runs short of the three-figure mark, one when play resumes tomorrow morning. Both of them should actually have been back in the pavillion early in their innings.
It was a frustrating day for India though in the end they had two quick wickets of Russel Arnold and night watchman Duleep Liyanage to console themselves.
The Sri Lankan batsmen thrived against a wayward bowling attack with only Venkatesh Prasad sticking to a consistent tight line and length. Two of India's main strike bowlers Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan came in for maximum punishment conceding 93 and 105 runs respectively. Harbhajan had two wickets to show at the end of the day but Zaheer had none.Prasad was rewarded with three wickets for his tireless effort.
Sri Lanka resumed at their overnight 13 without loss with captain Sanath Jayasuriya in his usual belligerent mood. Jayasuriya and Atapattu scored freely during the initial overs with Zaheer Khan in particular deviating from the line and punished.
Jayasuriya was lucky when he played a Harbhajan Singh delivery on to his boots with the ball ricochetting off to Mohammad Kaif at silly point. However, umpire David Orchard of South Africa gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman.
Jayasuriya (30) did not last long though and was out after making five more runs. He snicked a Prasad delivery on to his wicket to be dismissed in this fashion for the second time in this series.
Jayasuriya's dismissal put the brakes on the scoring for some time with Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara playing cautiously. It was during this period that Atapattu survived an easy run-out chance that cost India very dearly.
Sangakkara called for a run but backed out leaving non- striker Atapattu stranded in the middle. All Dinesh Mongia, substituting for Hemang Badani at point, had to do was to throw the ball straight to Harbhajan Singh at the bowler's end. However, the throw was wide and though Harbhajan managed to take the throw and hit the stumps, it was already too late.
Atapattu was in his twenties then. In the penultimate over before lunch, leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule succeeded in inviting Sangakkara out of his crease to go for the drive. The batsman missed the ball completely but wicket-keeper Sameer Dighe failed to gather the ball and another chance went abegging. Sri Lanka took lunch at 93 for one.
The batsmen opened up after the break and scored fluently with Atapattu, who had been very slow in the first session, pressing the accelerator. Atapattu played some majestic drives on both sides of the wicket and blunted Harbhajan Singh with effective use of his feet.
He raced to his half-century, and added 71 runs for the second wicket with Sangakkara before the wicket-keeper batsman became the second victim of Prasad. Sangakkara was surprised by the bounce and edged to the second slip where Badani took a good catch. Sangakkara made 47 off 100 balls.
Then followed the most productive partnership of the Sri Lankan innings between Atapattu and Jayawardene. Jayawardene started slowly contributing only 13 in the first 50 runs of the stand but accelerated especially after Atapattu's exit.
Jayawardene got his share of luck on 31 when Dighe spilled a simple catch off Bahutule. He went on to play a crackling knock never giving the Indians any other chance.
Atapattu, in the meanwhile, reached his 12th Test hundred, second against India, with a four off Bahutule. With the bowler going round the wicket, Atapattu came dancing down the track, made room for himself and hit exquisitely through the covers and the ball raced to the boundary.
However, Atapattu became victim of yet another poor decision by umpire Orchard. The umpire adjudged him caught by Shiv Sunder Das at forward shot leg off Harbhajan Singh when TV replays showed the ball had touched only the pads with the bat being quite far.
The Indians could hardly complain about the decision, having got rid of the man who had been giving the headache for over five hours.
However, their miseries were far from over. With Sri Lanka placed comfortably at 252 for three, Russel Arnold, who has had an indifferent Test series so far, chose the occasion to hit his way back to form.
Arnold showed his aggressive instincts right from the start and went for his shots. One particular shot, a hard-hit off-drive off Prasad, landed straight in the hands of Harbhajan Singh at mid-off but the fielder was unable to hold on to it.
India took the new ball after 82 overs but Zaheer Khan, who usually is very effective with his yorkers, could not capitalise this time too. But Prasad got his third wicket with a faster delivery that went through the bat and pad of Arnold after the batsman had made 31.
Sri Lanka sent in night-watchman Duleep Liyanage but he could not see the end of day. Dighe finally got one right when he caught an edge off Harbhajan.
Jayawardene, who had spent quite some time in the eighties, continued to trouble the Indians and smashed a couple of fours to reach the nineties. However, he was unable to reach his century today and played out the day.