Tendulkar doubles up
Sachin Tendulkar’s fifth Test double-century made a draw all but certain against Sri Lanka at Colombo.
The fourth-highest score of the 37-year-old’s 168-match career steered India to near-parity with the hosts’ mammoth 642 for four declared.
By stumps, the tourists led by 27 after 198 overs with one wicket in hand, a position made possible also by Test debutant Suresh Raina’s hundred.
Raina was the game’s fifth centurion, Tendulkar yesterday becoming the fourth, as Sri Lanka’s bowlers continued to toil on a featherbed.
Barring an extraordinary change of fortunes for bowlers tomorrow, Sri Lanka will preserve their one-match lead ahead of the last Test.
The tourists resumed this morning 260 in arrears with fifth-wicket pair Tendulkar and Raina on 108 and 66 respectively.
They made a positive start, taking 13 off debutant off-spinner Suraj Randiv in the third over of the day, including a Raina six over long-off.
That set the tone as Tendulkar and Raina progressed steadily, the debutant striking seamer Dammika Prasad for a boundary to bring up his ton, along with the 200-run partnership and avoiding the follow-on in the process.
Mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis finally broke through after lunch when Kumar Sangakkara held Raina at short midwicket for 120, featuring 12 fours and two maximums. He added 256 with Tendulkar.
However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni picked up where Raina left off to quell thoughts of a wobble.
Milestones came on the brink of tea as Tendulkar nudged Mendis round the corner to herald his double-hundred before Dhoni registered a half-century.
With Sri Lanka’s frontline bowlers toiling, Sangakkara turned to Tillakaratne Dilshan after the interval and the plan soon paid off when the part-time spinner had Tendulkar caught behind on 203.
The Little Master, who batted for over eight and a half hours, faced 347 deliveries, collecting 23 fours and a single six.
Three balls later Dilshan struck again as Harbhajan Singh drove to Sangakkara at midwicket.
Dhoni and Abhimanyu Mithun responded by taking minimal risks, and the run rate dropped accordingly.
The eighth-wicket duo took India into credit shortly before Dilshan held a sublime, diving return catch to remove Dhoni for 76.
Mithun was in sight of a maiden half-century when Mendis breached his defence on 41, but final pair Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha remained until stumps.
By that point Randiv and Mendis had sent down 64 and 54 overs respectively, the former striking twice but conceding in excess off 200 while the latter had four wickets to his name.