Dhawan ton boosts India
In a rare good show with the ball, Sri Lanka fought hard in the last two sessions of the day's play to walk away with equal, if not more, share of honours.
In tune with the theme of the series so far, India c3ontinued their dominance of the Sri Lankan bowlers after skipper Virat Kohli won the third toss in as many times and opted to bat first on the sun-kissed opening day of the third and final Test at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium
Shikhar Dhawan (119, 209m, 123b, 17x4) brought up his second century of the tour in sparkling fashion while KL Rahul (85, 174m, 135b, 8x4) fell for another half-century, his seventh in a row now, before Lanka struck at regular intervals to leave India at 329 for six in 90 overs. India's finish was a far cry from the start they had - a 188-run stand off 39.3 overs.
Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara (3/40) was the stand-out performer with the ball while Lakshan Sandakan (2/84) and Vishwa Fernando (1/69), two of the three changes to the Lankan side, lent able support.
India enjoyed a few slices of luck in the morning when Rahul was grassed on 28 off a difficult chance. Before Rahul's reprieve, Dhawan's slash off Fernando had fallen short of the slip fielder in the first over of the day. Apart from these minor hiccups, both the Indian openers had a smooth ride. Dhawan was his aggressive self, hardly letting go of any scoring opportunity. While he did bring in sweeps and pulls every now and then, cut was his most productive shot, especially in the opening session as Lankan bowlers, particularly Lahiru Kumara, offered the southpaw too much width too often. Dhawan brought up his half-century in just 48 balls.
His partner Rahul appeared sedate but only in comparison as the right-hander consumed just 67 balls to bring up his fifty. India departed for lunch at an impressive 134 for no loss in 27 overs, scoring at nearly five runs an over. India continued in the same fashion after resumption and just when Rahul looked like ending his century-drought, he holed out to mid-on while attempting a lofted shot off Pushpakumara. This ended the massive opening stand on a pitch that had a hint of turn and uneven bounce.
Dhawan, however, wasn't to be denied his moment in the sun as he drove Pushpakumara wide off mid-on's right to reach his seventh career Test hundred. Remarkably, all his last three hundreds have come against Lanka in Lanka. The 31-year-old, however, failed to convert it into a big hundred as his attempted slog sweep was smartly held at square-leg by Dinesh Chandimal off Pushpakumara.
Introduced only in the 40th over with India already on 187/0, the left-arm spinner provided some breather with twin breakthroughs. Though both the openers fell to ambitious strokes, Lanka bowled with a lot more control and discipline. The hosts' strategy to go in with five bowlers, including all-rounder Dilruwan Parera, worked well for them.
Left-arm chinaman Sandakan troubled the Indian batsmen too and had his reward when an extra-cautious Cheteshwar Pujara edged one to the lone slip. Ajinkya Rahane threw caution to the wind as he tried to hoist Pushpakumara out of the park but missed the line completely to see the ball crash into his exposed stumps. Virat Kohli (42) and R Ashwin (31) managed to bring back sanity before Sandakan induced an edge from the Indian skipper off a wrong 'un to the lone slip.
Soon after, Lanka summoned the new ball and both Fernando and Kumara bowled some hostile overs. Their efforts paid off when Ashwin chased a Fernando sucker to make it Lanka's most satisfying day of the series yet.