India close in on win as Sri Lanka totter at 31/3 in pursuit of 410. India hurtled towards their ninth successive series victory as they left Sri Lanka precariously placed at 31 for three and staring at another humiliation in the third and final Test here on Tuesday. The visiting Lankans were set an improbable victory target of 410 to level the three-match series. It will be a miracle if Sri Lanka manage to make it. The 16 overs that they batted during the final 85 minutes of the fourth day’s play was with an aim to survive rather than play positive cricket. If the scoreboard is anything to go by, the ploy boomeranged on the visitors, who were again seen wearing anti-pollution masks, the second time in the game.The pitch has not deteriorated much but it is the straighter deliveries from the spinners that is causing maximum damage. Mohammed Shami (1/8 in 3 overs), who was unwell after a three-over burst, bowled a hostile spell and accounted for Sadeera Samarawickrama (5). A barrage of short deliveries unnerved the opener, who was hit on the temple while fielding in India’s first innings. Shami played on his psyche with well-disguised bouncers into his body – one such he fended awkwardly and offered a simple catch to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips. The ever-accurate Ravindra Jadeja (5-2-5-2) had Dimuth Karunaratne caught behind, giving Wriddhiman Saha his fifth catch of the match.The decision to send Suranga Lakmal (0) as night watchman backfired as he played on while trying a forward defensive prod. Skipper Virat Kohli (50 off 58 balls), Rohit Sharma (50 off 49 balls) and Shikhar Dhawan (67 off 91 balls) made useful contributions as India declared at 246 for five, with an overall lead of 409 runs. With a cushion of 163-run first innings lead, the Indian batsmen showed intent to score quick runs, scoring at a rate of 4.70 in the 52.2 overs they batted in the second innings. It was a 77-run stand in 17.2 overs for the third wicket between Cheteshwar Pujara (49 off 66 balls) and Dhawan in the post lunch session that set the platform for Kohli and Rohit to accelerate in the final session.The Indian skipper and his limited overs deputy added 90 runs in only 15.2 overs. Kohli had only three fours but ran brilliantly between the wickets along with Rohit, who, among his five boundaries, had a gorgeous pull-shot to his credit. The moment he reached his sixth consecutive half-century in Tests, Kohli signaled for a declaration. It was Pujara, whose uncharacteristic batting set the tone for India in the second innings. The Saurashtra batsman was even more attacking than Dhawan, whose innings had five fours and a six down the ground off Chinaman Lakshan Sandakan. The two batsmen were especially severe on off-spinner Perera. Whenever he dropped it short, the batsman hit him on either side of the wicket.
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