Colombo:Indian bowlers finally struck some form but a slow and steady Sri Lanka still had the upperhand, reaching 293 for four on the opening day of the series-deciding third Test at the P Sara Oval here on Tuesday.
Needing to win the match to square the series, India put up a comparatively better show after being asked to bowl for the third successive time in the series.
Spinner Pragyan Ojha took two of the four wickets to fall, dismissing the well-set Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara (75) and his deputy Mahela Jayawardene (56).
Sangakkara could not make full use of a dropped chance when he was on 23 and missed out on his third successive century. But his innings helped Sri Lanka recover from an early jolt after he put on an 87-run stand with Tillakaratne Dilshan (41)
Thilan Samaraweera (65) and Angelo Mathews (26) were unseparated in a 52-run partnership for the fifth wicket, guiding the hosts to early stumps due to bad light.
The match also saw Sachin Tendulkar become the most capped player in the game as he surpassed former Australian captain Steve Waugh's record of 168 Tests.
Unlike the first two matches, that saw bat dominating the ball, the track here had something to offer both bowlers and batsmen.
India, after suffering another injury blow in the form of spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh, began well by removing both the openers in the first session and added one wicket each to their tally in the following sessions.
The pace duo of Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun did extremely well in the seaming conditions and stifled the Lankans early on.
The Lankans managed to avoid a collapse by playing cautiously but could not resist the temptation of taking the aerial route once the spinners came on.
And that led to the dismissal of a steady Sangakkara who holed out to Virender Sehwag at long-on to gift his wicket to Pragyan Ojha in the post-lunch session.
Sangakkara's knock came off 114 balls with two sixes and five fours and together with Jayawardene, he collected 55 runs for the third wicket.
Jayawardene too lost his wicket when he looked set for a big score, becoming the second victim of Ojha.
His patient knock came off 154 balls after a more than three hour vigil during which he managed just three boundaries.
Earlier, Dilshan was run out at the stroke of lunch while opener Tharanga Paranavitana (8) was dismissed by Ishant early in the innings.
India would have got a wicket almost immediately after Paranavitana's departure had Raina, preferred over an out-of-form Yuvraj Singh, not dropped Sangakkara off Mithun's bowling.
The Karnataka pacer, bowling around the wicket, induced an edge which flew into the slip cordon to VVS Laxman but Raina lunged on the chance from the left and in utter confusion, the opportunity was lost.
Unlike the first two Tests, Ishant and Mithun did succeed initially to contain the batsmen but once the Lankans got their eye in, they managed to bat steadily.
Dilshan smashed Ishant for two cracking boundaries and Kumar Sangakkara hit Amit Mishra, who came in for Harbhajan, for a four and a six to break the shackles.
Together they raised an 87-run stand, which ended with a brilliant piece of work by Murali Vijay in the close fielding position.
Dilshan pushed one off Pragyan Ojha and left his crease anticipating that Vijay, at silly point, will not be able to stop the ball.
But a full stretched Vijay succeeded in clutching the ball and threw it towards Dhoni, who took off the bails in no time, leaving Dilshan bamboozled.