Galle: Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag hit impressive half-centuries to strengthen India's position in the second Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Left-handed Gambhir was unbeaten on 56 and Sehwag cracked a brisk 50 as India reached 121/1 in their second innings at tea on the third day for an overall lead of 158. Rahul Dravid was 14 not out at the break.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 292 in their first innings on the stroke of lunch in reply to India's 329, with skipper Mahela Jayawardene top-scoring with a stylish 86 on a spin-friendly track.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh played a key role in India's gaining the lead as he finished with 6-102 for his 22nd haul of five or more wickets in a Test innings. He was brilliantly backed by leg-spinner Anil Kumble (3-81).
Sehwag, who scored an unbeaten 201 in the first innings, and Gambhir then consolidated their team's position with a 90-run stand for the opening wicket. The pair had put on 167 in the first innings.
Gambhir, who made 56 in the first innings, reached his second successive half-century when he stepped out to drive off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan past mid-on for his sixth four.
The Sri Lankan captain pressed his spinners into the attack early in the innings, but neither Muralitharan nor Ajantha Mendis could trouble the Indian openers.
Sehwag yet again dominated the Sri Lankan attack as he reached his half-century off just 49 balls with a six off Mendis and six fours.
He fell two balls later playing an uppish drive off left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas, with Tillakaratne Dilshan timing his jump to perfection to take a superb catch in the covers.
The Indian spinners earlier dashed Sri Lanka's hopes of gaining the lead by sharing five wickets, with Kumble taking three and Harbhajan two. The hosts could add only 77 to their overnight total of 215-5.
Jayawardene, averaging 99.21 before this match at the Galle International Stadium here, was the lone batsman to thwart the Indian spinners. He looked set to complete his 24th Test hundred before being caught behind off Kumble.
The teams observed a two-minute silence before the match in memory of former India batsman Ashok Mankad, who died in Mumbai on Friday.
Sri Lanka lead 1-0 in the three-match series following their win by an innings and 239 runs in the opening Test in Colombo.