Colombo:Virender Sehwag led a strong Indian fightback with a blistering unbeaten 97 as the visitors restricted Sri Lanka to 425 to more or less restore balance in the third and final cricket Test here on Wednesday.
Sehwag batted with his customary flourish and was just three runs short of what could be his 21st century as the visitors reached a comfortable 180 for two in their first innings at close on the second day.
Sehwag ran away with honours on Day Two, which also saw Sri Lankan Thilan Samaraweera (137) hitting a century, with a scintillating show of strokeplay on a sporting pitch at P Sara Oval.
The dashing Indian opener, who sent the home team bowlers for a leather hunt in the final session, consumed just 87 balls for his 97, hitting 17 fours. He also became the sixth Indian to score 7000 Test runs when he reached 70.
Giving company to Sehwag at stumps was milestone man Sachin Tendulkar (40) who has become the most-capped Test player, surpassing former Australian captain Steve Waugh's 168 appearances.
Murali Vijay (14) and Rahul Dravid (23) were the two batsmen dismissed. India now trail Sri Lanka by 245 runs with eight first innings wickets intact.
Coming together at 92 for two, Sehwag and Tendulkar have shared 88 runs for the unfinished third wicket stand.
It turned out to be a productive day for the Indians, who were trailing 0-1 in the series, as their bowlers came up with a decent performance by taking the last six wickets in less than two sessions to bowl out the home side for 425.
Sehwag then led the a strong Indian reply with a typical aggressive innings. The opener, who was dropped on 52 by Angelo Mathews, gave Chanaka Welegedara with special treatment hitting boundaries off the Sri Lankan bowler almost at will.
Welegedara bled 59 runs from his first spell of eight overs before he was taken off. Out of the 11 fours he conceded in his first spell of nine overs came from Sehwag's blade.
The strong start by the visitors was though a one-man show for most part as other opener Murali Vijay could contribute just 14 from 35 balls.
Vijay was looking like giving long company with his senior partner with some fine delectable boundaries off Welegedara before he was out to a tame dismissal after raising 49 runs with Sehwag for the opening wicket.
Vijay tried to check himself from playing a drive off a full length Lasith Malinga delivery which went straight to Ajantha Mendis at extra cover.
Dravid looked like a man in hurry scoring an uncharacteristically breezy 26-ball 23 which was laced with five fours but failed for the fifth time in the series to make an impact.
Earlier, pacer Ishant Sharma and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha shared the spoils with two wickets apiece as Indian bowlers got their mojo back to bowl out Sri Lanka for 425 half an hour before the tea break.
Besides Ishant (3/72) and Ojha (4/115), leggie Amit Mishra and part-timer Virender Sehwag also claimed one wicket apiece as India removed the last six Sri Lankan wickets for 132 runs and in 51 overs.
The post-lunch session was the most productive session for India as they took four wickets at the expense of 56 runs.
For Sri Lanka, Thilan Samaraweera remained unbeaten on 137 which he made from 288 balls and with the help of 12 boundaries and a six.
Angelo Mathews (45) was the other main contributor for Sri Lanka today while the five lower order batsmen could not reach double digit figures as the home side were all out after facing 138 overs around half an hour before the tea break.
Resuming the post-lunch session at 396 for six, Suraj Randiv was the first to go when he scooped a simple skier of the bowling of Sehwag to Rahul Dravid at first slip in his individual score of eight.
Malinga (4) was the next to go as he popped up a simple return catch to Amit Mishra giving the bowler his first wicket.
The remaining batsmen, however, continued to hang on for a while along with Samaraweera who gave some special treatment to Ojha.
It was left to Ishant to get Ajantha Mendis when the batsman stabbed it to gully where Suresh Raina made no mistake.
Ishant then got his third wicket when Chanaka Welegedera failed to gauge a short pitch bouncer that took the edge of his gloves and went to the wicket keeper for a fairly straightforward catch.
In the morning session, Ojha scalped two quick wickets but Samaraweera's patient hundred carried the Sri Lankans forward.
Samaraweera's century came off 229 balls and comprised 10 boundaries.
Ishant Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun extracted a bit of bounce from the pitch early on, but they could not provide any breakthrough.