Sri Lanka pacer Suranga Lakmal (3/50) took three wickets to blunt India’s surge but skipper Virat Kohli helped the hosts post 251/5 at lunch and keep them on course for a draw on the fifth day of the first Test here at the Eden Gardens on Monday.
India now lead Sri Lanka by 129 runs with two sessions remaining.
Kohli was not out on (41 off 71; 4×4) while Ravichandran Ashwin (0 not out) joined him just before lunch as Ravindra Jadeja (9 off 41; 1×4) got out to a Dilruwan Perera delivery on the cusp of the break.
Resuming on an overnight score of 171/1 with Lokesh Rahul batting on 73 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 2, the hosts did not start brightly owing to Lakmal’s devastating spell (8-2-19-3).
The hero of Sri Lanka’s first innings, he returned best figures of 4/26, sent both Rahul (79 off 125; 8×4), Pujara (22 off 51; 3×4) and Ajinkya Rahane (0) packing.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan missed out on a 100 by six runs (94 off 116; 11×4, 2×6) on day three. The southpaw’s wicket was taken by Dasun Shanaka.
Rahul once again failed to convert his start into a big score, the seventh time in nine innings he has been guilty of doing so, when an in-dipping Lakmal delivery knocked off his middle stump.
The overnight second-wicket stand was of 26 runs.
In came Kohli and alongwith Pujara, who achieved a rare feat by becoming he third Indian cricketer, after head coach Ravi Shastri and M.L. Jaisimha to have batted on all five days of a Test match, the pair tried to forge a third wicket partnership but failed.
Pujara was caught off-guard by extra bounce off the surface with Perera – at the centre of some controversy on Sunday due to a DRS call — pulling off a sensational diving catch at gully off Lakmal’s bowling.
Rahane was lbw without troubling the scorers, falling to an in-cutting Lakmal delivery that caught the vice-captain rooted to his crease and playing all around the ball.
The out-of-form batsman went upstairs for a review but was unsuccessful.
Lakmal was brilliant in the first session, reminding everyone of his devastating spell of swing bowling in the first day.
Just as Kohli and Jadeja looked good, the 36-run stand for the fifth wicket was broken by Perera who got Jadeja out with extra bounce which the all-rounder pushed to Lahiru Thirimanne at first slip.
Brief scores, Day 5 Lunch: India 172 and 251/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 94, Lokesh Rahul 79, Virat Kohli 41 not out; Suranga Lakmal 3/50) Sri Lanka 294