COLOMBO: Ajinkya Rahane scored a century as India built a near-impregnable lead in the second Test against Sri Lanka at the P. Sara Oval on Sunday.
The tourists, looking to level the three-match series after losing the first Test in Galle, had taken their second innings from an overnight 70-1 to 283-5 by tea on the fourth day.
With an overall lead currently at 370, India are expected to declare early in the final session to give themselves enough time to bowl Sri Lanka out a second time on a slow, wearing pitch that should favour their spinners.
The target for Sri Lanka is already more than the highest successful fourth innings chase so far at the venue — 352-9 by the hosts against South Africa in 2006.
Rahane anchored the innings before being dismissed shortly before tea for 126, his fourth Test century that was studded with 10 boundaries.
The Mumbai batsman and Murali Vijay (82) added 140 for the second wicket to boost the total after Lokesh Rahul had fallen off the fifth ball of the innings on Saturday evening.
Vijay hit four boundaries and two sixes, but missed his seventh Test century when he attempted to sweep off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal and was adjudged leg-before soon after the morning drinks break.
Kaushal then trapped captain Virat Kohli leg-before for 10, but Rohit Sharma (34) helped Rahane add 85 for the fourth wicket.
Kaushal removed Sharma and Rahane in successive overs as India slipped from 256-3 to 262-5.
Sharma pulled a short ball to Jehan Mubarak on the mid-wicket fence and Rahane’s 243-ball vigil ended when he edged a catch to wicket-keeper Dinesh Chandimal.
Wriddhiman Saha retired hurt with a hamstring niggle after making five and it was unclear if the wicketkeeper will take the field when Sri Lanka bat.
India made a brisk start in the morning by adding 68 runs in the first hour, with Vijay slamming sixes off fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera and Kaushal.
At the other end, Rahane reached his half-century by reverse-sweeping Kaushal for his fifth boundary and went to 100 with a flick off the same bowler for a single after lunch.
India scored 393 in their first innings after electing to bat and bowled out Sri Lanka for 306 to gain a lead of 87 runs.