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Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Colombo: India faces an uphill struggle to save the decisive final Test against Sri Lanka after being battered by a spectacular run spree from the hosts on Friday.

Four batsman hit centuries as Sri Lanka piled up 610 for six declared in its first innings in reply to India's 234 during the third day's play at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground.The Indians, trailing by 376 runs, were 28 for no loss at stumps in their second knock, still needing 348 to avoid an innings defeat over the next two days.Shiv Das was unbeaten on 22, having survived a sharp chance in the gully off fast bowler Dilhara Fernando. Left-hander Sadagopan Ramesh was on four.The tourists were left to rue their meagre pickings in the first innings as the Sri Lankans plundered runs at will on what turned out to be an excellent batting wicket.After Marvan Atapattu's 108 on Thursday, there were hundreds from Mahela Jayawardene (139), Hashan Tillekeratne (136 not out) and debutant Thilan Samaraweera (103 not out) on Friday as Sri Lanka out batted India from the match.Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya ended India's plight in the field by declaring an hour before close soon after Samaraweera reached the three-figure mark by steering Venkatesh Prasad to the third man boundary."The wicket is still good for batting, but it is bound to help the spinners in the last two days," Jayasuriya said.[an error occurred while processing this directive]"We don't want to bat again in the match so it was important to give the bowlers a big lead to dismiss India again." Just one Sri Lankan wicket fell during the day as Tillekeratne put on 95 for the sixth wicket with Jayawardene and an unfinished 194 for the seventh with Samaraweera.Jayawardene, who made 104 in the second Test in Kandy, hit his second century in the series after starting the day on 95. He reached the landmark with two boundaries off Venkatesh Prasad and Harbhajan Singh, before being dismissed 10 minutes before lunch when he was given out lbw off Sairaj Bahutule.Tillekeratne, the 34-year-old veteran brought back into the side at the start of the series after a two-year absence, overcame his poor form in the first two Tests to blast 16 fours.Samaraweera, however, stole the show by fighting off cramps to become the third Sri Lankan debutant after Brendon Kuruppu and Romesh Kaluwitharana to score a century.The 24-year-old, who needed Russel Arnold to run for him in the later part of his innings, hit 10 crisp boundaries all round the wicket.The Indian bowlers, toiling under a hot sun on the unresponsive wicket, also had the unwanted distinction of four centurions in their ranks. Off spinner Harbhajan Singh conceded 185 runs from 53.3 overs for his two wickets on the same pitch where his Sri Lankan counterpart Muthiah Muralitharan grabbed eight wickets on the first day.Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan conceded 134 runs from 27 unsuccessful overs, while new ball partner Prasad went for 101 from 34 for his three wickets.Leg spinner Bahutule may have claimed the only wicket of the day, but he returned with one for 101 against his name in only his second Test. As India's hopes of winning its first series away from home in eight years evaporated under the onslaught, it was faced with its second series defeat against Sri Lanka.The last time India lost a series to Sri Lanka was way back in 1985 when Kapil Dev's team lost 0-1 in Colombo.

AFP
Copyright AFP 2001

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